Iowa Foresters Working Hard to Keep Oak Trees Alive, Battle Invasives

Feb 13, 2017

Iowa has four major state forests and six minor ones, measuring somewhere shy of 44,000 acres. In those forests right now, mission number one - keep the oaks alive.

"We have had very erratic weather the last few years. It’s been very wet, and we’re really worried about oak death,” says John Byrd, Area Forester for Shimek State Forest in Southern Iowa. “It takes work to get oaks to grow. If you let everything go, it’s not the species that would be there. If you let it go, it would be maple, basewood and elm.”

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Byrd and Eastern Iowa District Forester Mark Vitosh about the health and management of Iowa’s state forests.

Larry Weber is working to manage a private strip of timber he calls "Old Man’s Timber" which is just south of Iowa City, and he says woodland management is a lot of work but “there’s no shame in going to bed tired.”

He says he’s seen dramatic growth in the diversity of wildflowers in his timber since he’s been conducting prescribed forest burns to cut out invasive species.  

“We’ve also seen a tremendous response in woodland wildflowers. When we first walked the property, we didn’t have any signs of timber star... Now we have hundreds of species," he says. "It’s amazing how resilient these species are. They’re just waiting for a chance to grow again.”