#53: Michelle Foss on Forest Stewardship at Fontenelle Forest

#53: Michelle Foss on Forest Stewardship at Fontenelle Forest Nature's Archive

Summary

Michelle Foss, Director of Resource Stewardship at Fontenelle Forest

Today’s episode is really exciting and was a new experience for me – a field interview! And I couldn’t have asked for a better guest than Michelle Foss, Director of Resource Stewardship at Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, Nebraska.

Fontenelle Forest is not what most people would typically think of if they envisioned Nebraska. It is 2100 acres, with a mosaic of habitats. It’s largely wooded, and much of it heavily forested. It is hilly, and also includes riparian spans, flood plains and hilltop prairies when considering the Neale Woods portion of the properties.

For this episode, Michelle and I took a walk in the forest, with my goal to learn more about the ecology of this system and the stewardship that Michelle and the team at Fontenelle Forest oversee. You’ll hear our footsteps, singing birds, and even evidence of the hills we were walking in the form of our occasional heavy breathing. And in a way this is like many of the nature hikes I lead, where we have a hike theme, but we give ourselves leeway to discuss and interpret fun things we happen upon along the way.

So be prepared to learn about Bur Oaks, Loess soil and the Loess Hills, American Redstarts, the natural fire regime of this more eastern North America forest, how the team is working to restore more of the natural habitats, and much more.

You can follow Fontenelle Forest on twitter, instagram, and facebook.

So without further delay, Michelle Foss.

Did you have a question that I didn’t ask? Let me know at naturesarchivepodcast@gmail.com, and I’ll try to get an answer! I’ll add these Q&As to my monthly newsletter, so if you aren’t already subscribed, go here. I promise, no spam. I share the latest news from the world of Nature’s Archive, as well as pointers to new naturalist finds that have crossed my radar, like podcasts, books, websites, and more.

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Biological “Rules” – interesting relationships seen in nature.

Fontenelle Forest Nature Search (ffnaturesearch) – excellent catalog of living things found at Fontenelle Forest

Nebraska Natural Legacy Project – map showing Nebraska’s 35 unique biological landscapes

Photos Referenced In The Episode

Closed canopy and wood nettles
Reddish-brown Stag Beetle Lucanus capreolus
Oak Rough Bulletgall Wasp Disholcaspis quercusmamma high up on a Bur Oak
Liriomyza sp. leaf mines on a White Snakeroot Ageratina altissima plant
Coyote scat

Music Credits

Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed

Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed

Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/

Transcript

Transcripts are automatically created, and are about 95% accurate. Apologies for any errors.

[00:00:00] Michael: Michelle, thank you again for making the time in your day. And you’re, I’m sure a very busy day to show me around a little bit and tell me about the forest. Absolutely.

[00:00:08] Michelle Foss: Thank you for having me.

[00:00:10] Michael: And right now we’re walking down a hillside beneath the canopy and , what sort of vegetation do we have around us right now?

[00:00:19] Michelle Foss: Yeah, so this is primarily wood. So I recommend staying on the trail. So this is our deep forest type habitat. So you’ll notice as you look around, there are not a wide variety of plants and they’re all about the same color. You can see different age classes of trees.

[00:00:38] Different species of trees, and we find that the forested areas are in the ravines and closer to water. So we have a huge variety of different habitat types here, all the way from rivering flood, plain, up to Prairie in the Hills. And it all has interesting transitions. Some of them are hard transitions where we’ve done some work and it hasn’t quite evened out a little bit and some of them are more natural transitions.

[00:01:05] Michael: So what strikes me about this area is how dense it is. And I don’t know if this would be. Typical in a mid or late succession forest in this area, or is this density more because it’s been protected For so long. A

[00:01:20] Michelle Foss: little bit of both. So if you look up, it’s almost an entirely closed canopy mm-hmm , which is not typical for the state of Nebraska except along the Missouri river.

[00:01:31] So we are in a unique position with where we are along the river and at the edge of the Prairie to have a variety of habitats like this. So in addition to being protected it’s also degraded because for so long protected meant not doing anything. So we’ve had invasive plants and other species come in and caused some problems.

[00:01:54] We’ve also had our natural processes stopped. So we have seen a lot of Woody and tree encroachment up from the ravines into the prairies. Okay.

[00:02:04] Michael: And speaking of the, the forest more generally, you gave a bit of an overview of the different habitat. Types. And when I was researching to come here, I, like I told you that I used to come here as a kid mm-hmm , that was just really the experience.

[00:02:16] I never really thought about the land and what it used to be like or what it could or should be. Mm-hmm . And in any event, I, I saw you had a timeline on the website and it stretches back like 2 million years or something like that. You go way back, which was really a lot of fun. I loved seeing that, but can you tell me just a little bit about, this land going back in time?

[00:02:38] How Fontenelle forest came to be. And some of the key milestones along the

[00:02:43] Michelle Foss: way. Yeah. So as an organization, Fontenelle forest was formed in 1913. There was no land. It’s just an organization of people who wanted to protect this area. They saw the value for what it was. Prior to that for approximately a hundred years, it was European settlement.

[00:03:00] So we were transitioning land use wise from the indigenous balance to the European culture of the cities and the towns. There was a lot of logging, there was some grazing and there was a lot of use of the resource without a whole lot of thought to the future of the resource.

[00:03:23] Michael: And I can imagine that I, I think of what I learned in grade school, growing up, which I probably partly accurate, I don’t, I don’t know how much was accurate, but the lack of wood you get further out away from the Missouri river and the sod houses because of lack of wood.

[00:03:37] I can only imagine that that near this area, this would’ve been seen as a great resource for homesteaders and early European settlement.

[00:03:45] Michelle Foss: Yeah. And even when European settlement started, there were not the numbers and density of trees that we have today. . There was still forested areas and there was still the resource to use, but it was not this dense.

[00:03:57] So they had to really get creative as well. Prior to settlement, the Nebraska phase, native Americans lived here and they had primarily sod houses with thatched roofs and some wood structure to them, but they would build their homes typically up on the Hills and. Where they built their homes and where we see the evidence of those homes helps us with past land use prior to European settlement and helps paint a bigger, more holistic story of what this land was.

[00:04:27] Even the natural processes have been altered. The large grazers that used to live here, elk, bison even some of the predators. We probably had bear here a couple hundred years ago. They’re no longer here. So when you remove those large animals and those Keystone species from a system, the system is, is inherently changed and destabilized.

[00:04:50] So depending on what’s brought in on the heels of that, leaving of. The big animals. That’s what shapes the future land use and how we look at things. So for about the first hundred years of Fontenelle forest existence, we had an kind of a leave it alone mindset. And that was actually the, the way, conservation is thought in the beginning of the movement was all right, stop, leave it alone.

[00:05:19] And as we’ve progressed with science, with land management techniques, we’ve realized that if we leave it alone, we’re going to lose the little bit that we have due to all of those pressures from the human use of the areas and around the areas.

[00:05:37] Michael: Yes. , and new pressures that we’re constantly introducing as well.

[00:05:42] Yeah.

[00:05:42] FOntenelle forest came into existence in, in 1913 and Apologies , if you said this part already, but , how did that initiate?

[00:05:50] Michelle Foss: So there was a small group of people in the area who saw the value of the land and saw the expansion of the Omaha area and even Bellevue and wanted to hold onto some of that for the purpose of having nature and providing that for people to experience.

[00:06:15] Our first land purchase as an organization was approximately 300 acres of child’s point, which , we are actually going to walk part of that today. And that was the first chunk of land that we protected and that we kept from neighborhoods or develop. and in that area were some historic sites. There was a pasture land, which is up on the Ridge from here and there was a sawmill also on site near that area.

[00:06:46] By pulling this land out of development, we’re not only preserving the ecology, but also the history of this place. And the land here has a relatively short history in the grand scheme of things. So our timeline it’s over 2 million years, but a lot of that was an inland ocean and some more of that was a mile of ice during the glaciers.

[00:07:12] So our land has been covered. for much of the Earth’s life. So the plants and the systems that we have here have basically adapted since the glaciations. And we are one of two areas in the world, the Loess Hills here, and also in China, where they have Loess soil that has this unique soil. So our soil is flowery, very, very erodible, and it is wind blown pounded by the glaciers.

[00:07:49] We have kind of a cool landscape here. And our Oak Woodlands are one of a dying system, especially along the Loess Hills.

[00:07:59] Michael: So I think that you are reading my mind because these are all things I, I was hoping to ask you about. So I always feel like I mispronounce it.

[00:08:08] Is it Los or less or Lu? Lu. Okay.

[00:08:12] Michelle Foss: It it’s spelled L O E S S but it’s pronounced L U S S

[00:08:16] Michael: okay. Loess Hills. And I’ve seen that written countless times. You mentioned the powdery nature of the soil. . And nutrient wise, how does it compare, say to a clay or, some other common types of soils?

[00:08:29] Michelle Foss: A lot of it depends on the top soil on top of it, but it’s typically a, a Prairie type soil. . So you would expect it to be a little bit drier. Uh, Like I said, it’s easily eroded by water.

[00:08:40] This is an excellent example. So this used to be a trail. And it turned into a ditch. So in addition to the water, it’s people, it’s animals.

[00:08:50] Michael: Yeah. It just crumbles

[00:08:52] Michelle Foss: in your hand. Yep. Just crumbles while it’s super dry too. Yeah. But you can see it just, it looks like flour mm-hmm and easily windblown.. there’s a lot working against us having hiking trails out here. Windblown water , stuck on people’s shoes. Mm-hmm so some of our higher traffic trails, you may have noticed we’ve been walking on crushed limestone and that helps armor it and keep some of the soil in place.

[00:09:17] So that, that is less likely to happen. But we’ve also learned over the years how to build trails so that they’re more sustainable. . So out sloping and where on the slope to put them and not going straight up and down Hills when possible.

[00:09:32] Michael: So what I’m envisioning is you. If you didn’t know any better, you would make a trail.

[00:09:40] And a combination of things start happening. At that point, you’re getting a little bit of compaction from people walking on it. The vegetation starts to die. So it’s no longer holding the soil that compaction creates a trough. So water will be channeled down the trail. The lack of vegetation from the use prevents the soil from being held in place.

[00:09:57] And then you pretty quickly, you have almost a runaway process of erosion happening on the trail and that’s that’s this. Yep. Yeah.

[00:10:05] Michelle Foss: yeah. One of the main ways to combat that erosion from people in trails is switch backs and it’s annoying to people sometimes when they think two steps and I can get to that next section.

[00:10:18] Mm-hmm instead of going all the way around, but creating the trail that has switchbacks provides A safer path for people, but it also reduces the amount of water in any given part of that path, because water’s gonna follow the path of least resistance, which in this case is no longer the trail. So that’s how we move water off of our trails.

[00:10:40] This is is three route of the trail we were on we’ve we tried going that way a little bit and decided that we were gonna have this way instead based on some of the plants we’ve seen in different areas and just how things respond. Yeah. This is a little more open area here too. It is, this is an area that we have done some significant thinning in repeated fire.

[00:11:02] Okay.

[00:11:02] Michael: That would explain it.

[00:11:03] Michelle Foss: Yep. So you can see the canopy is more open. You see there’s a wider variety of plants. I don’t know if you can tell this, but they’re also different shades of green. So one of the things I’ve noticed with our restoration is that in addition to the biodiversity of plants, you have a white variety of color as well.

[00:11:22] And I don’t know if that is just because of all of the different plants or if there’s different wavelengths of light that are getting through. But I have noticed that the greens are different when you have more open canopy. That’s a really

[00:11:37] Michael: interesting thought I’m probably gonna look into it.

[00:11:40] Michelle Foss: I, I I’m hoping somebody studies this, if it hasn’t been studied

[00:11:43] Michael: yet. There are so many like general relationships that people have identified in nature., nothing ever holds true a hundred percent of the time, but you. For example in the desert or any, any location based on temperature, , an animal surface area to weight ratio, mm-hmm , limb length, like all these different sort of generalizations and yeah, , I could see how you could support a greater diversity of greens in an open area.

[00:12:07] And I, I have to ask about the grasses too, because in California, so many grasses are European grasses that were brought in for grazing purposes. Mm-hmm what is the general state of the grass population here? We have

[00:12:21] Michelle Foss: a very interesting combination of invasive naturalized non-native and native. The one that you pointed out right here, this is called bottle brush grass, and it is a native that we find in our more open Woodland

[00:12:35] Michael: areas.

[00:12:35] All right. I will snap a picture of that side note. I’m. An addict on iNaturalist. Oh, awesome.

[00:12:42] Michelle Foss: That’s my favorite. So here’s a really great dichotomy of where we have done some significant work and where we haven’t touched Uhhuh so you have this wall of small baby trees with nothing growing underneath it,

[00:12:58] Michael: right?

[00:12:58] Yeah. You look in the ground and there’s very

[00:13:00] Michelle Foss: little. Yeah. And that that’s not healthy. That’s not sustainable at all. Mm-hmm so what you see up here is a combination of removing of some of the smaller baby shrubby trees. We’ve also taken out some of the bigger trees. To open that canopy and then mowing and prescribed fire.

[00:13:18] Michael: Yeah. So I would love to learn a little bit more about that. You mentioned that one of the factors is fewer large grazers. Yes. I had an impression that there were a lot of deer in area. Maybe that’s wrong or maybe the deer aren’t enough. Can gimme a bit of a feel for, for what’s going on with the deer population and grazing?

[00:13:40] Yeah.

[00:13:41] Michelle Foss: So deer are browsers, so they browse on the upper level. Some of these trees that you see here whereas the bison and elk are more the grazers. Okay. And they eat the stuff at ground level. So they would eat these trees before they became big. Whereas deer weight until they’re bigger.

[00:14:00] Michael: Okay. And at that point, the trees can probably sustain a little browsing.

[00:14:04] Yep. And they don’t really . Suffer too much. Yeah.

[00:14:07] Michelle Foss: As far as our deer population it depends on where you’re at and the year it is a much more stable population than it was 25 years ago. When we instituted our managed hunt back then we had a huge overabundance of deer and there would be things stripped, bare up six feet tall.

[00:14:32] Since about 1996, we’ve been doing an annual deer hunt. And in the beginning we also did degradation hunts with staff. Yes.

[00:14:44] Michael: So not to throw you off. I just, I, I am always attracted to leaf miners, mins. That’d they? Cool. Yeah. And I just I just noticed this really good one here. So this is a wood

[00:14:53] Michelle Foss: nettle.

[00:14:54] Nope. This is, I’m not sure what plant. This is offhand.

[00:14:57] Michael: Oh, there’s so much right here. My eye naturalist instincts are I’m gonna have to push back. on my instincts .

[00:15:02] I’m gonna get, get a photo here of this wonderful pattern from this leaf mine.

[00:15:08] So

[00:15:08] Michelle Foss: in addition to those leaf miners, this is a Linden tree right here. And if you look up, you’ll see the leaves look pretty well. Skeletonized, Uhhuh, and that’s a leaf minor too. Oh, really? Yep. That’s

[00:15:19] Michael: some major leaf mining action.

[00:15:22] Michelle Foss: yes. And actually this is a, a good year for the trees.

[00:15:25] Maybe not so great year for the leaf miners. Normally we have a lot of leaf drop by mid-July. Okay. And these trees still have their leaves.

[00:15:34] Michael: So why do they still have their leaves this year?

[00:15:36] Michelle Foss: Because they haven’t been predated on as hard. . Once the tree has had enough, it drops its leaves. Okay.

[00:15:42] So we have not seen tree mortality from the leaf minors. They’ve been wreaking havoc since before I started 10 years ago. So we don’t think that it is affecting the health of the trees yet because they still leaf out every year.

[00:15:58] Michael: do you know what species of insect is. Doing the mining I don’t

[00:16:03] Michelle Foss: offhand, but I believe it is on our nature search.

[00:16:08] Okay. So FF nature search is a website where you can go and look at a variety of the living things that you can find at Fontenelle forest and Neale woods. We have some really awesome volunteers who have created those pages there’s plants, there’s insects, all kinds of stuff. Okay. So if you go to nature search and you look up leaf miners, you should be able to find a bunch of leaf miners.

[00:16:34] Michael: So I was asking about the grazing and I wanted to also follow up. When I think of bison, I tend to think of more of the planes mm-hmm but there were bison here at one point in time. Yes.

[00:16:48] Michelle Foss: So probably not down to where we are. We’re actually down pretty low on the slopes.

[00:16:53] They would’ve been up on our Ridge tops and our flats. Okay. So the intricate mosaic of habitats here at Fontenelle forest starts at the river and works its way up. And we go through so many different and interconnected systems from that river up to the Prairie, all of it contained within our borders. So we own about 1500 acres of land here in Bellevue.

[00:17:22] And then we also own another 600 or so acres. Up north of Omaha and that is higher up in the Hills and it it’s more the Prairie area. Whereas this place has more of the Oak, Woodland and Savannah. But connected to the prairies probably about where the nature center would be.

[00:17:43] Michael: Okay. So then the, the big missing link from a grazing standpoint in this area, would’ve been, would be the elk if I had just used process of elimination.

[00:17:54] Michelle Foss: Yeah. So in all reality, it’s that combination and that balance of the different the different, large grazers. Okay.

[00:18:02] Michael: Is there any possibility of elk ever being , reintroduced to this area?

[00:18:07] Michelle Foss: In theory, it could happen. It would be very difficult to manage an elk herd on our land with the resources we have.

[00:18:19] So nothing’s fenced in. And we would have to create elk proof fencing, that would make it a lot harder to accomplish a lot of the rest of our mission. Okay. So at this point we just mimic large grazers with our mechanical thinning. One of our most economical and most effective land management tool is prescribed fire.

[00:18:43] And that doesn’t work. Oh, that’s really cool.

[00:18:46] Michael: Oh, nice. So we have a beetle here on the path. I, there’s only a million species of beetles, so I, I don’t know what it is.

[00:18:55] Do you have any idea? I do not. That’s very almost like a maroon brown color shiny.

[00:19:03] So prescribed burns.

[00:19:05] Michelle Foss: Yes. So that was also a land management technique used by the indigenous people. There were also natural fires lightning and then more recently, a lot of the unintentional fires would’ve been by the railroad. But fire is not just part of this landscape. That type of disturbance is actually required by , our Oak Woodland species or Keystone species, the bur Oak.

[00:19:35] So it requires disturbance. So it needs wide open areas for the acorns to germinate and thrive. So we get a lot of little tiny saplings, but then they get shaded out.

[00:19:48] Michael: Is there any historical evidence of what maybe a typical fire return in interval would’ve been for this area? And at any point in the past, maybe it’s during pre-European or maybe even further back.

[00:20:03] Michelle Foss: So not specifically here at Fontenelle forest, but the generally accepted Prairie fire return interval is approximately four years. We are piggybacking off of research out of Wisconsin and many other Oak Woodland areas that say repeated annual fire as you’re controlling invasives and the woody plants is required, and then you play with it and see what your results are, but we anticipate it being approximately three to five years.

[00:20:34] Wow. Once we get to a point where we’re in maintenance and we’re not in active restoration,

[00:20:39] Michael: So that is really surprising to me. I generally think of this area here anyway, as fairly wet. I know I I’ve, I’ve lived here long enough to know that there are droughts but uh, humid and, you know, I’m thinking about the California, Chapparal having a, a frequent fire return in interval, and that landscape is so much drier .

[00:21:01] So that’s really, really interesting now in the prairies, is that, is that because there’s a lot of annual vegetation that yeah. Dies out, dries out. Okay. Yeah.

[00:21:10] Michelle Foss: So approximately four years is the accepted fuel loading for maintenance of the prairies,

[00:21:20] Michael: and then these ravines where the forest was denser.

[00:21:24] They would’ve bordered some of the

[00:21:26] Michelle Foss: prairies, so it wouldn’t directly border. So right here, we’re in one of our hollows fire does not burn down here. So how you were talking the humidity, the wet, this is not conducive to fire mm-hmm . So where fire occurs is up in those dryer landscapes, that Oak Savannah Oak Woodlands, it does travel down into the forest more, but that’s less of a fire adapted landscape.

[00:21:52] So it’s less receptive to fire. Also, our fire’s very different than the fires say in California. Mm-hmm where they’re, they’re hot. They’re explosive. They’re fast. Our fire is slow moving. It doesn’t burn as completely. So when we have a burn, we expect bear patches. We expect places, the fire doesn’t go at all.

[00:22:15] We actually use hollows as fire breaks in some instances, because it’s just not receptive to fire

[00:22:21] Michael: natural fire break. Yeah. The homogeneity, I think of some of the Western forests that never used to be as homogenous. That’s, one of the factors now that makes fire so much worse. Cause you don’t have the natural variance in the landscape that can act as a fire break.

[00:22:37] Right.

[00:22:38] So the bur Oak requires disturbance. It needs that more open canopy. So you mentioned Oak Savannah, that’s conjures up to mind. Very sparsely populated environment with trees like the canopy. What, what 25% canopy coverage

[00:22:55] Michelle Foss: or less. Oh, less. Yep. Yes. And that. Where we do restoration work is based on plant communities we’ve seen in any land use history we have.

[00:23:08] So we have a pretty good timeline from Lewis and Clark to now, and pre Lewis and Clark, we go based off of plant community changes from different surveys where the earth lodge sites are. So where an earth lodge is that tells us it was pretty open. so that would be a candidate for Savannah work and then we’ve chosen about the upper 20% of slopes for restoration work.

[00:23:40] Now, as we said before, there’s a lot of generalities in nature, so that doesn’t work all the time. If we see a bur Oak farther down a slope than 20%, and we see those open area plants, we’re gonna do some work there. And if we see an area where we have a diverse forested landscape that comes higher than 20%, we’re probably not gonna spend time restoring that to Savannah either.

[00:24:07] .

[00:24:07] Michael: Are there other species that. Are fire adapted or maybe not necessarily disturbance requiring disturbance, but more specifically fire.

[00:24:16] Michelle Foss: Yeah. So Oaks have associates and it depends on the system as to what those associates are, but we typically find hickories with our Oaks smaller trees, like June berries Hawthornes sometimes plums. So those are, that’s kind of the, the Oak associate system. And those trees since they’re associated with the Oaks are also relatively fire resistant.

[00:24:45] Grasses tend to be fire resistant. There are some other Woodland plants that thrive in that type of environment as well.

[00:24:55] Michael: What are the other Keystone species here?

[00:24:56] Michelle Foss: Yeah. So our flood plane is another very distinct kind of hierarchical structure as well. And one of the Keystone species there is Cottonwood. So sticking with the tree theme, but also beavers because they can impact the system an incredible amount for the amount of biomass they have. Here’s an excellent example of erosion. a trail that hasn’t been fixed yet.

[00:25:25] Michael: Yes.

[00:25:26] Michelle Foss: So we also have done large scale erosion control projects and we’re about to walk across one of them. So there’s the Missouri river, just to our right,

[00:25:36] which has been extremely channelized and engineered. Back in the thirties, we actually acquired some extra land when they channelized the river, they moved up far enough away that we got some extra flood, plain land. But that has led to some issues. So we’ve had a couple of major floods over the past 12, 13 years.

[00:25:59] Michael: I remember seeing some of that on a visit back for miles up and down. Yeah, the river. Yep. And I think interstate 29 was covered. Yep. And yeah, pretty, , severe and astonishing really.

[00:26:10] Michelle Foss: It isn’t, it isn’t. So if you stop to think about what we have done to the river and the fact that the water’s gonna win anyway, actually makes a little more sense.

[00:26:22] So it’s not fun to deal with. We actually had water almost up to the top of this dam here. Because it backed up from the river. Yeah. That’s but it also came down from the Hills

[00:26:32] Michael: standing here right now. What the water level is, is what a good 40 feet below,

[00:26:35] Michelle Foss: or it’s extremely low actually. Yeah. Yep. It’s pretty incredible.

[00:26:40] How quickly things can change. Mm-hmm and how slowly changes take sometimes too.

[00:26:46] Michael: So one thing I neglected to ask you at the very beginning is can you tell me the mission of Fontenelle

[00:26:51] Michelle Foss: forest? Oh yes. So we want to provide a place where people can experience and enjoy the quiet, wild of nature.

[00:26:58] And we want to inspire current and future generations to care for the natural world. And my job in that is to look after the buildings, but also to take care of the land. Our lane stewardship team is only five staff members. So I have two biologists, two Rangers, and a managers that gets this done.

[00:27:18] Michael: And it sounds like a train and a train coming by train. Yeah. Oh, I see it about 50 meters away. yeah.

[00:27:25] Michelle Foss: Wilderness. This is not . Sometimes you can pretend the farther out you get from the city, but ,

[00:27:33] Michael: We were doing pretty good until the train came by. Yeah. I hadn’t heard, I hadn’t noticed anyway, any airplanes and, or cars or motorized vehicles, but , they built all these tracks in these valley areas near waterways because it was flat. So yeah, it’s still here today.

[00:27:48] Michelle Foss: Yes it is. So that’s a pretty massive Cottonwood tree right out there. Okay.

[00:27:53] Michael: Going up yep. To the right there. Yeah.

[00:27:55] Michelle Foss: With the lighter colored leaves. Yeah. So we have intersections of our bur Oaks and our cotton woods on the flood plain. So our bur Oaks go out that way. And our, Cottonwood trees come up the hill a little bit.

[00:28:09] So

[00:28:09] Michael: cotton woods are generally water loving mm-hmm trees. Yep. We get some smaller ones out west Fremont, Cottonwood. But these are probably about Eastern Cottonwood. Yeah, that’s a massive tree.

[00:28:21] Michelle Foss: Yeah. So this is a fun area

[00:28:23] Michael: of, is that a bur Oak thing on the it is there. Yeah. Yep.

[00:28:26] Michelle Foss: Yeah. So that one had to grow up a little bit before it could grow out.

[00:28:32] One of the hallmarks of a healthy bar Oak tree is that it’s branches are so most of our bur Oaks travel up before they go out, because they’ve had to compete with some of these smaller, faster growing shade, loving trees. Mm-hmm that would historically have been down in lower areas.

[00:28:51] Michael: It’s reminiscent as some of the other Oaks I’ve seen where it has sort of the, the, the gnarly yep.

[00:28:57] Pattern of the, of the limb growth and, and big limbs too.

[00:29:01] Michelle Foss: There’s a couple of good ones that we’ll see up on the third loop of our boardwalk heading out.

[00:29:05] Michael: Did, were you able to finish the mission statement before the train yes. Came by actually I got it all

[00:29:10] Michelle Foss: out. . So basically we want people to connect to nature and by having people connect to nature and providing an actual natural space we’re, going to help empower other people to take care of the natural world, whether that means they’re volunteering here or donating to us or doing it on their own somewhere else.

[00:29:31] Maybe it’s native plantings in their yard or, energy, energy conservation in their home. Mm-hmm so they’re, there’s so many ways, so many ways and some things are small.

[00:29:44] Michael: You mentioned only five people on staff for land stewardship.

[00:29:48] Yes. Do you have a lot of volunteers then? We

[00:29:50] Michelle Foss: do. We are blessed to have a huge crew of people who help us out. So we have a regular Tuesday, Thursday morning group. Right now it’s primarily retirees. We also see a lot of students throughout the school year. And then we have once monthly Saturday work days.

[00:30:07] Okay. In addition to that, we do have an internship program. so we have been hiring two summer interns approximately college, the age, and then this summer we partnered with the Latino center of the Midlands and we have three high school students as well. Nice.

[00:30:26] Michael: Yeah. So it sounds like a pretty good variety of groups and ages and population

[00:30:34] Michelle Foss: we’re trying, access to nature is a privilege in a lot of cases and we’re recognizing that and trying to make it more accessible.

[00:30:45] And one of the ways to do that is to let people know this is something you can do as a job.

[00:30:53] Michael: I’m curious what your experience has been with. Say middle-aged parents and getting them engaged.

[00:31:00] Michelle Foss: So for our Saturday Workday, we had a family who moved a couple years ago, but they had a two year old daughter and it was mom and dad. And only one of them was actually volunteering and helping us.

[00:31:14] The other was following the child around. But the whole family was here engaged and learning in what we were doing. So she was super helpful picking seed too. Cuz she could get the lower ones. Ah so we try to make it so that any experience level is welcome. We just want people to get out here and see what we have.

[00:31:39] We feel that once people get out here, they’ll have a better understanding and they’ll wanna be out here more. So we actually have a lot of people who come and this is their nature outlet. So they’re, they’re in manufacturing or I was talking to a software engineer a couple of weeks ago. This is what he does for fun.

[00:32:05] That’s great.

[00:32:07] Coyote scat.

[00:32:08] Michael: Oh, I’m standing on it. That, that is you see the little yep. Twisty and all the hair.

[00:32:16] Michelle Foss: Yep. We do have foxes too, but you don’t usually see evidence of them on the trails. They’re a lot more skittish of people and people smells mm-hmm okay.

[00:32:26] Coyotes will come out. After most people are gone.

[00:32:29] Michael: so speaking of larger animals there have been in recent years, more and more reports of mountain lions making it into Eastern Nebraska. Yeah. Do you expect to see mountain lions here in the

[00:32:41] Michelle Foss: forest? Not long term. The couple that we may have had passed through are just passing through mm-hmm we don’t have enough habitat for them to be able to be here.

[00:32:53] We’re pretty forested. So the two that we think have been through here in the past 10 years or so have primarily been male. So I don’t expect to see them. Coyotes are our biggest predators. Which is why we have to have the managed deer hunt because they don’t have any predators.

[00:33:10] Michael: And you still do the managed

[00:33:11] Michelle Foss: deer hunt to this day. We do. Yep. Every year. Now we’re down to four days and only at this property, we used to do a couple weeks here and a week up at Neale woods, but right. We are seeing fewer and fewer deer.

[00:33:25] Michael: So that aligns, you’re saying it’s a more, more stable population.

[00:33:28] Yes. So you’ve been able to ease back on

[00:33:30] Michelle Foss: that. Yeah. So we look at kind of a, a rolling average over the past few years of our deer take and also what we observe in the field. If we have a couple of years of a lot of triplets being born, we may up our hunters. But right now I believe we have 25 and not everybody gets a deer.

[00:33:50] Okay.

[00:33:51] Michael: Oh, here we have uh, Cicada. Oh yeah. It’s still alive. It is. I did not think it was alive.

[00:33:58] So it was laying upside down and I touched it and it gave me a little wing flap.

[00:34:04] Yeah. This is. The sound of the cicadas here is something that I think is just makes me feel at home. Yeah. Having grown up in the area.

[00:34:14] Michelle Foss: So this is another area where we’ve done some thinning, the storm last July helped us with that. So it took out some of the canopy, not necessarily what we would’ve taken out, but can’t do anything about it. Bar Oak leaves

[00:34:28] Michael: are around here somewhere. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:34:30] Michelle Foss: So there’s one right here. This one’s dead, but even dead bar Oak can sustain some incredible populations of animals.

[00:34:38] Michael: I’m I’m gonna guess there’s a lot of insects working on the tree right now and the woodpeckers and yeah.

[00:34:43] Michelle Foss: So you can see there’s a bunch of holes in there from woodpeckers. Once it hollows out, other critters will build homes in there.

[00:34:51] Michael: Of course fungi are, oh yeah. Probably enjoying it. . It seems like, it seems like a lot of Oak trees have a one or two symbiotic.

[00:34:58] Fungi.

[00:34:59] Michelle Foss: Yeah. So mycorrhizal fungi are extremely important, not just to bar Oaks, but to most forest and tree ecosystems. There’s some science coming out about the fungal components in all different systems and how they are the web that holds everything together.

[00:35:18] So this is a place where we’ve done significant work we’ve had some Woodland sunflowers pop up. We did not seed this area.

[00:35:26] Michael: Interesting. So these seeds may have been here for years or decades. Yeah. Waiting for the chance.

[00:35:32] Michelle Foss: Yep. So this is the third loop of our boardwalk you can see primarily our trees up here are bar Oaks and Hickory.

[00:35:40] You can see there’s one right back here that we call it Wolfy. When they, they spread their branches out, you can see how some of the upper branches are just enormously long.

[00:35:51] Michael: That’s a very interesting shape. It is. It’s like the trunk stopped and it put all its effort into going

[00:35:57] Michelle Foss: out the going out.

[00:35:58] So it did that looking for sunlight.

[00:36:00] So

[00:36:01] Michael: when you’re thinking about, stewardship of an area, as diverse as this, there are so many factors that come into play. Because you do, you mentioned you have some invasive species, you have some non-natives that have kind of mm-hmm adapted to the space. And then of course the native species, and I know what you do for one if there’s a species of concern, what you do for that species may be detrimental to another important one.

[00:36:24] Do you have a framework for thinking about

[00:36:26] Michelle Foss: that? Yeah. What we do is , we work at kind of the systems level, we don’t have too many things that we manage for one species. We talk about the bur Oak a lot, because that’s one thing you can get your head wrapped around. It’s like the Monarch butterfly for all pollinators.

[00:36:41] It’s, it’s that one thing to focus on, we look at the functioning system as a whole and build our management plans for the area around that. Okay. We’ve been doing management here since the late nineties.

[00:36:55] So this is one of our longer term projects. We’ve done thinning in various stages and we’ve done some mowing as well as fire.

[00:37:03] Michael: And when you thin do you generally leave the, I see a lot of, trunks and branches. Do you generally leave it or do you yes. Cut

[00:37:10] Michelle Foss: some of it out. Yeah. For the most part we leave it.

[00:37:12] Some of it will haul out if it’s easy to do, but for the most part it stays we do, that’s a habitat too, so right. We do brush pile in a lot of instances because if you leave like tree canopy and some of these logs laying down, nothing can grow where they’re at. So if we are trying to get in and actually manage an area, we need to be able to one move and two get fire and or thinning mechanisms.

[00:37:44] Okay. So we do brush pile. Sometimes the brush piles just sit there and they eventually break down and sometimes we burn the brush piles.

[00:37:53] We do some burning in the summer, but typically if we’re going to burn a brush pile, it’s gonna get done. When we burn the unit, we don’t do. Thinning where we are not going to follow it up with other treatments typically prescribed fire.

[00:38:10] Michael: I see where that would make sense. So how about some of the invasive insects that have been making the news in recent decades?

[00:38:18] Emerald ash borer are you being impacted? Of course there’s the Japanese beetles that defoliate lots of different things.

[00:38:26] Michelle Foss: Yeah. So we are not seeing a whole lot of problems specifically from the Japanese beetles. We’re finding that they per the cultivated plants, not the native ones, which is awesome.

[00:38:37] It’s not to say they aren’t here and they’re not doing some damage, but we are not seeing any issues from that side note. This tree actually caught fire on one of our fires. Yep.

[00:38:47] Michael: Oh yeah. It’s burned out Uhhuh and it’s coming back and it

[00:38:50] Michelle Foss: fell over. And you can see those are some of the chunks from the trunk.

[00:38:55] And this is a perfect example of how resilient broke trees are, because there’s a whole lot of stems that grew up out of that stump. . And that only happened in 2016. Okay. So yeah, it’s been about

[00:39:10] Michael: six years, so it’s it’s roots not impacted by the fire has all that resource to help it come back. Yep.

[00:39:18] Michelle Foss: And it’s, it’s a pretty old tree.

[00:39:21] It had been hollowed out before the fire impacted it. So this tree has been given a whole new life. Yeah.

[00:39:28] Michael: Yeah. It’s amazing. Also, I stop when I have good eye level view of Oak leaves. Yeah. I’m also looking for plant galls on the yes. On the Oaks.

[00:39:38] Michelle Foss: So this one has some on the branch here. You can see that.

[00:39:41] Oh yeah. Impacted the leaf out of that one. I’m trying to think. I don’t see too many galls on this one. But are Hackberry trees are usually littered in galls.

[00:39:51] Michael: I will get a photo of the stem gall up there. That’s another fun thing. I love to show people, especially if you have a brightly colored, fresh gall.

[00:39:59] Yeah. And, hearing the, the brainstorm from someone who doesn’t know what it is and they see this thing and then telling them the life history of what’s actually happening. It’s one more little light bulb going off in understanding the food web and the interconnectedness of everything.

[00:40:14] Yes.

[00:40:14] Michelle Foss: And how much we just don’t know still. So this is part of our Riverview boardwalk. It is a mile of accessible boardwalk that you can see out over the river. Although a few years ago, you couldn’t because there were so many trees in the way, and this is one of those areas. We do have one or two earth lodges up on the Ridge up here. So we would’ve known historically this was more open mm-hmm so you can see we’ve got some wild flowers here.

[00:40:43] They don’t see anywhere else from where we were today. We’ve got some iron weed over there. Some American Bellflower, which we did see down below, but there’s a wide variety of almost Prairie plants. And that’s because this would’ve been a Savannah area. We also know from historical records that this was the pasture that I was talking about earlier.

[00:41:07] We are on child’s point. So first, the first acquisition. Yep. And our historical photos from 1920 show that this was pretty open with lack of management and lack of disturbance, all of those little trees that are right along the cliff edge they came up from the bottom and worked their way in, worked their way in.

[00:41:28] So they’re very quick growing hack, berries, iron woods, Lindon trees, and they’re all very shade tolerant. So this Oak tree has sprouted new branches on the side because it has the space and the sunlight to do so now that’s

[00:41:44] Michael: really nice to see. Yeah, you don’t see it very often because you don’t have a situation like this where it’s been opened up.

[00:41:50] Michelle Foss: Yep. So it’s pretty exciting to see the new growth on an Oak tree like that. . I mean, Most trees grow up and people get excited about really tall trees. But when we see Oaks that have sprawling branches, when they’re huge and down low like that, we know that happened probably before disturbance was stopped.

[00:42:12] Michael: , is this actively managed to yes. Continue this.

[00:42:15] Michelle Foss: Okay. So it was not burned , this past burn season. There are a lot of factors that go into what we can burn and when, so timing is incredible. That is a red Oak leaf.

[00:42:28] Michael: Okay. I was gonna say here’s a different Oak leaf. Yes. So a red Oaks native. They are,

[00:42:33] Michelle Foss: so we have the two Oaks predominantly here at Fontenelle and that’s the red and the bur Oak.

[00:42:39] We are in a weird transition here. The Missouri river is an east to west kind of buffer zone , but we are in also a north and south buffer zone. So if you go down south hour and a half Indian cave state park, same base system, they have significantly more Oak species than we do really go an hour and a half, two hours north to PKA state park, same thing, huh?

[00:43:01] They have another set of Oaks. So we just are, are in that weird middle phase where we only have the two main species. So here we have a lot of the old growth Oaks, so you can see,

[00:43:15] Michael: oh, this is nice. Yeah. Yeah. I’m busy looking down but this is so reminiscent of some of the Valley Oak stands that I have back home.

[00:43:24] Michelle Foss: So this, we are guessing, educatedly that this would’ve been more, what it looked like several hundred years ago.

[00:43:36] Michael: So it’s still pretty dense here. It’s not quite a Savannah,

[00:43:39] Michelle Foss: right? It is not quite a Savannah. Yeah. So there’s, there’s quite a few old Oaks out here too. So they probably wouldn’t have all made.

[00:43:49] It, had the normal disturbance regimes been around. One of our previous directors of stewardship did his master’s thesis here on the land use and did tree cores of a lot of our trees. And he found some 350 year old Oaks back in 1977. So tree cores

[00:44:08] Michael: drilling a hole. Yes. Yep. That way. And that’s, that’s challenging because so many Oaks are hollowed out in the middle.

[00:44:15] Yes. So that probably would’ve taken some work in some challenging assessment

[00:44:19] Michelle Foss: and they don’t grow evenly on all sides either. So yeah, it’s I never mastered the art of tree coring. I took a dendrology class in college and I, I decided I would be happy to look at other people’s tree course.

[00:44:33] Michael: have them help you interpret it.

[00:44:35] Yep.

[00:44:36] Michelle Foss: I’m happy to look at them. I just can’t drill them.

[00:44:38] Michael: I’ve been enjoying as we walk through the more open habitat it was noticeably more bird activity, more bird diversity. I was seeing nut hatches, woodpeckers Cardinals. There was a fly catcher back there. you can see that impact too, where you at the transition at the what?

[00:44:53] What’s that called eco tone. Yep.

[00:44:55] Michelle Foss: Yeah. And I didn’t even have to point it out. Yeah. so one of the other things that we’re finding as we open up the canopy you mentioned right away mosquitoes, and there’s fewer mosquitoes in these open areas. Mm-hmm, , they’re terrible flyers. So when there’s any breeze at all, they’re not gonna be around.

[00:45:12] So here, where we’re standing, we’ve got the river that there’s typically a breeze off of, plus the more open Woodland area that we’re on. So

[00:45:24] Michael: yeah, one nagging thought I had back to the invasive insects Do you monitor for spotted lantern flies, a big concern in many areas. It hasn’t made it past Ohio, I think is as far west as it’s gone, but are you actively monitoring for things like that?

[00:45:39] We are

[00:45:40] Michelle Foss: not. And part of that is that, that resource base that we have the five people. Okay. We do some of our own studies, but our studies are not very intensive. We don’t have time to do , the type of scientific studies and the monitoring that are required to detect things like that. It goes back to our bigger lane management philosophy and that it’s landscape level.

[00:46:06] If you can make that base healthy, you’re more likely to resist invasion. So we may have Emerald dashboard. In fact, I’m sure we do, but we don’t go looking for it. And there’s no way we could treat for it.

[00:46:19] Michael: That’s another good point. What do you do when you find it? If there’s, there’s no way you can respond to it then.

[00:46:24] Yeah. Yeah.

[00:46:25] Michelle Foss: Yep. It’s something that . We are aware of. And we invite others to come do studies here. We actually have had researchers from U N M C and department of agriculture come out and study ticks because Lyme disease prevalence has gone way up in the Omaha area. Oh. Which typically means that something around here is probably carrying Lyme disease.

[00:46:52] Mm-hmm and that’s usually a tick. Yeah. Yep. So that’s being studied. We had another researcher put out some traps for an invasive Longhorn beet. And they detected one. Okay. But there’s nothing we can do about it. Feasibly

[00:47:08] Michael: yeah. Ticks are an interesting space at the moment because they’re seemingly. The range is, is increasing. And , have you heard about alpha gal syndrome? Yes. Yeah. There’s . New pathogens emerging. Yep.

[00:47:25] Michelle Foss: And it, it all goes back to that balance of nature. And there’s imbalances,

[00:47:31] Michael: there’s a, a very interesting, and, and I don’t know how this might be relevant here or not, but California has a relatively low occurrence of Lyme disease despite having large numbers of ticks. And they believe it’s partly because of the Western fence lizard.

[00:47:46] It’s is such a primary host of ticks. Somehow the fence lizard has a defense against Lyme disease and it actually purifies the tick. So that’s incredible. Yeah. Any tick that, that attaches to a Western fence lizard is then cleared of Lyme disease. Oh, wow. So maybe there’s some medical. Advance that can come from that.

[00:48:05] Or maybe there are other species that act in the same way. That’s exciting.

[00:48:09] Michelle Foss: Yeah. So here’s an example of where we did burn brush piles in the summer. And part of that is because we are trying to prepare this area for fire either this fall or this spring, and you didn’t want so much fuel and we needed to get rid of some fuel.

[00:48:25] So in addition to that, we also had to clean up the forest floor because there are a lot of dead trees in here that we are going to need to get down on the ground in order to safely do prescribed fire. So we had a red Oak die off a few years ago and some of ’em still don’t look great, but that’s probably from the brush pile.

[00:48:45] . But most of the dead trees you see are the red Oaks. Yeah. And that

[00:48:49] Michael: extends up the

[00:48:51] Michelle Foss: hillside yep. Up the hillside. When we’re doing prescribed fire, our primary fuel are the Oak leaves.

[00:48:57] They have a, a substance and I’m called Subin, which is flammable. So Oak trees actually encourage fire and that’s what burns that and the, grasses in the Savannah

[00:49:09] Michael: Woodlands to think how that came to be over millions of years. Yeah. , they need the disturbance. So let’s encourage a little disturbance by having flammable leaves.

[00:49:19] Yep.

[00:49:19] Michelle Foss: And they have incredible bark. That’s deeply foroughed, which helps protect it from drought and flooding and fires. They also tend to be relatively strong in wind storms.

[00:49:32] So what are you

[00:49:33] Michael: most excited about with the future of the forest in the stewardship and how you see it progressing?

[00:49:40] Michelle Foss: I think what excites me the most is the increase of people who there’s your goals. Yeah. We just

[00:49:48] Michael: found some galls on a red Oak leaf. I’ll take this with me and take a photo.

[00:49:53] Michelle Foss: The increase in people who are interested in what we’re doing.

[00:49:57] When I started as a biologist in 2015, there was a lot of you can’t light the forest on fire. It’ll kill everything to now. People are like, oh, how does prescribed fire work in your system? Or are you preventing wildfires in theory? Yes. But in actuality, this is not the type of system that has the catastrophic wildfires because there’s not fuel loading.

[00:50:23] Mm. Just being able to talk to more and more people about the system, we have, we are such a unique area and having that mosaic from the flood plain to the Prairie and just letting people know about it.

[00:50:39] Michael: I think the other thing that fascinates me, you started to speak to this earlier about how Nebraska the Missouri river in particular is a transition zone from, the more Eastern Des deciduous areas to the more arid Western and then the north south transition.

[00:50:54] Nebraska’s actually a pretty diverse state yeah. In terms of animal and plant life. And it’s for those reasons you have, you have all these transitions happening right here.

[00:51:05] Michelle Foss: So our state wildlife plan, the Nebraska natural legacy plan divides the state into biologically unique landscapes.

[00:51:15] How many other states can do that? So Nebraska is pretty incredible. Why

[00:51:20] Michael: is this bird here? I think it’s a red start. It might be an American Redstart.

[00:51:26] Michelle Foss: I don’t even see it. So I’m gonna take your word. Oh, right up top. Yeah. It’s

[00:51:29] Michael: flitting around with its tail fanned out. I know red starts like to fan their tail. It is a Warbler.

[00:51:35] Yeah, that that’s Redstart behavior anyway. It’s fanning it out. Yeah. Periodically. That’s cool. I’ve I’ve never seen one foraging. I’ve seen them just sitting still in the heat of the day, but nice.

[00:51:48] Michelle Foss: We are in the migratory flyway, the central migratory flyway. So we get to see a lot of different birds and having the flood plain habitat too. We also get the waterfowl coming through mm-hmm

[00:51:59] I know you have a, a listenership that actually spans the globe, and I would encourage people to look into what your native habitats are. What, what was the land like before settlement?

[00:52:13] , what was there before and how can you help any natural areas around you to make that better?

[00:52:20] Michael: Great advice. And there are echoes of similarities. I always like to point to Oak trees because first of all, they’re just, I love them. They’re huge. They’re, magnificent, they support so many different animals.

[00:52:30] And Oak trees exist in many places in the world too. Mm-hmm , it’s not just something here. So great advice.

[00:52:37] Michelle Foss: We did a fire training with a training exchange from the Niobrara valley and they had people from Spain and they were working in an Oak Woodland system. Mm-hmm so they came out here to see how we do it.

[00:52:49] Nice. So it’s pretty cool.

[00:52:52] There’s one more tree. I wanna show you that is, let’s do evidence of logging. So bur Oak trees, we already saw how resilient they can be. But in addition to bur Oaks walnuts, even some hickies will sprout stump suckers when logged as well. One of the really fascinating things about the evidence of logging is how many of those trees have come back as double and triple stumps.

[00:53:16] So it’s been cool. We have one very small area of off trail that is technically an old growth Walnut forest. And that is because. Vehicles couldn’t get in to pull the logs out. And while we do have some really old trees, as you’ve seen, some of those trees are just regrowth from previously cut or burned over.

[00:53:39] So this is one of our more recent restoration areas. We’ve done some canopy thinning. You can still see there’s a lot of nettles in here, but we also have some of that bottled brush grass popping back up. And there’s a couple golden rods growing in there too.

[00:53:54] Michael: Are there. Golden rods adapted to the shadier environments.

[00:53:58] I tend to think of them as, as more of a Prairie plant.

[00:54:01] Michelle Foss: Yeah. Some of them do grow more in the Woodland Savannah area. And some of that may be a byproduct of this having been a more open area. So that little pop of sunlight made ’em happy.

[00:54:14] Michael: They were walking by a a play area for children. Yeah.

[00:54:18] So it probably can be heard in the

[00:54:19] Michelle Foss: background. this is acorn acres. It was originally designed as a outdoor classroom, a natural play scape. It has seen better days and we are in the process of reenvisioning what that looks like and making that happen. So this is one of our logged trees. It looks like two trees until you get up to the edge of the boardwalk and you can see that it’s actually one stump.

[00:54:44] Michael: Nice. Yeah. And you have a, a great interpretive sign right here explaining that.

[00:54:48] Michelle Foss: Yeah. It’s a bur Oak. It is. Yep.

[00:54:52] Michael: These holes here. Are they woodpecker you think? Or just part of the ? Yeah,

[00:54:56] Michelle Foss: natural grass, probably woodpecker different insects will hide in the furrows of the bark, bur Oak trees, themselves, our host to hundreds of other living things. So that’s one of the reasons why they’re considered the Keystone is the amazing, support the system that the Oak can thrive in provides.

[00:55:16] Michael: And do you have any advice from what you’ve learned through your education and working here or working elsewhere to help people see the world? Like you see it, see ecology and see nature as you see it.

[00:55:28] Michelle Foss: There’s no right way to do it. Everybody in our land stewardship department came at our jobs from a very different background, from a very different experience level.

[00:55:39] So find something you like about nature and learn a little more about it. Observe it before you learn about it. Just go look, listen, feel, check it out, learn about the world around you, but experience it as well.

[00:55:54] Michael: And do you have any events or other items you can point to on the calendar for Fontenelle forests that , anybody listening locally wants to visit or participate in that, you wanna highlight?

[00:56:05] Yeah,

[00:56:05] Michelle Foss: we do guided hikes pretty frequently. I know we do a full moon hike every month. And we also have our land stewardship workdays on the third Saturday of the month. So our website has a lot more information about the specifics of our land management as well as education programs. And I mentioned earlier, our nature search website.

[00:56:26] so check out the living things that occur here at Fontenelle forest, and it’s not exhaustive, we’re finding new things all the time. And we’re also finding that some of the things in there we don’t find anymore.


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