Blog Image

Land bordering endangered darter habitat in west Birmingham is seeing restorative changes with the continuation of a restoration project that began last fall. Private landowner Emily Godsey’s 26-acre property abuts Seven Springs and is permanently protected by a conservation easement (CE) placed on the property two and a half years ago. Freshwater Land Trust worked with Emily on this CE to conserve important habitat of the federally endangered watercress darter, a tiny, spring-dwelling fish found nowhere else in the world but here and in five other locations in Jefferson County.

Procedures for habitat improvement and land management were outlined in the CE as stewardship goals. These plans included addressing erosion, invasive vegetation, and an overcrowding of streamside canopy, and creating a fish passage barrier. The fish barrier, a perched culvert, was fixed last November with assistance from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Wilbanks Engineering and Environmental Solutions, and Vulcan Materials Company. The extensive in-stream work has vastly improved the darter’s ability to navigate this stretch of the spring.

In late February, FLT began efforts to address the invasive species present on the property. A thick understory of Chinese privet had long been established on a portion of the property adjacent to the stream; this was where the work started. Heavy mulching equipment was brought in to plow through the thicket and grind the privet shrubs into small pieces for fast decomposition. This process is the first of many steps needed for privet eradication.

The mulching at the Godsey property took nearly eight days. FLT staff visited the property at the conclusion and were stunned at the sight; what had been a dense, dark screen of Chinese privet was now an open area of dappled light between tall hardwoods. A wetland at the rear of the property, formally masked from view, was now visible. Several invasives remained, however: Bradford pears too large for the mulcher were left temporarily standing to receive a slow-kill treatment administered by FLT staff.

Staff returned in March with hatchets and herbicide. By hacking notches deep into the bark and topically applying herbicide to the exposed area, the poisoned tree will remain standing for the remainder of the year while it dies, fulfilling the basic function of providing habitat for birds and bats until it falls.

We’ve waited a few weeks for spring growth to become established at the Godsey property. Now that it has, it’s time to revisit the privet. The battered stumps have sprouted tender, new stems of green — prime material for a systemic herbicide treatment. This step is necessary; a non soil-active herbicide (one that affects only the system of the plant it is applied to) is most effective in preventing regrowth of these woody, fast-spreading shrubs.

FLT will spend the next few weeks treating the privet and monitoring the Bradford pears. With continued effort towards these habitat improvements, this land will soon return to its natural wildness.

Before mulching. Property was overgrown with invasive species.

After mulching. Invasives cleared.

Recent Posts