by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager. Photos by Carole Mebus.
My management goals at Mariton are pretty much guided by Aldo Leopold’s essays like Thinking Like a Mountain. I think I help the land by working to manage invasive plants, control erosion on trails, and other things. For the most part I observe what the forest does, or “wants to do” and go from there. Decades of observation have helped guide my management actions, and I think those actions make Mariton appear very natural.
One of the exceptions is my decision to manage four of the fields with annual mowing. I tell children and adults over and over that this part of the country “wants to be a forest”. You can see that very clearly in three of the Mariton’s fields at this time of the year.
Carole took the above photo in April, five days after I had brush hogged it with the tractor. Below is the same angle taken 6 months later. In the foreground, and throughout the field, are the saplings of Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) that are literally 6 months old and 6 feet tall. If I didn’t mow this field every year, it would revert to forest in just a few years. A forest would be fine, but I like the diversity that these fields lend to Mariton’s landscape – and I treasure this outdoor textbook on forest succession.
Going back to Aldo Leopold, two decades of mowing and watching the results of these fields allowed me to stay calm after Hurricane Sandy leveled large sections of Mariton’s forest. We still have lots of work to control invasive plants in certain sections of the affected areas, but the forest is well on its way to restoring itself. In the coming years, I plan to do some selective management with chainsaw and shovel to promote a diverse forest. Again, I will draw on years of listening and observing to guide those actions as I try to “think like a mountain.”