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Clinch Mountain

Clinch Mountain Preserve

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Clinch Mountain Preserve, owned by Steve Brooks and Maxine Kenny, is a 108-acre hardwood forest located on a northwestern slope of Clinch Mountain in Scott County, Virginia. This area of Virginia is part of the Clinch River Bioreserve. Steve and Maxine, longtime environmentalists, modified their already donated conservation easement in 2005 to designate The 500-Year Forest Foundation as their conservation partner.

Clinch GMap

October 2014 Forest Report

New director Jeff Smith proposed a forest owners meeting for 2015 that coincided with ephemerals season at Clinch Mountain Preserve. Owners Steve Brooks and Maxine Kenney agreed to start conversations with Jeff about a walk in their woods for fellow 500-Year Forest owners.

Earlier Forest Reports

May 2004

Maxine and Steve with their dogs Ginger and SophieA preliminary study in May of 2004 by David Richert of Virginia's Natural Heritage Program identified the upper reaches of the property as a good candidate for a 500-Year Forest. The Clinch Mountain Preserve ranges from about 2100’ to 2800’ above sea level. Thirty acres of primarily northern red and chestnut oak ranging from 100 to 250 years old exist along the top of the mountain. David Richert in old-growth standBelow this is a younger forest ranging from 30 to 90 years including northern red, white, and chestnut oak, mockernut and shagbark hickory, yellow poplar, buckeye, beech, sugar and red maple, black cherry, white ash, and American basswood. The understory is lush with shrub and herbaceous species such as rhododendron, ferns, wild yams, wild ginger, bellwort, toothwort, spring beauties, Dutchmen’s breeches, fairy bells, and angelica.

 


March - November 2006

Anna Hess, Field Biologist, completed an inventory of plants and animals in the forest during 2006. A management plan has been prepared using this information. In the spring there was a great profusion of wild flowers in the coves. Johnny Townsend of the Division of Natural Heritage was very helpful in species identification. Within the forested area the variety of plants and animals are very diverse. The 195 species include:

Anna Hess measuring tree diameter

  • 6 rare plants
  • 15 invasive plants
  • 8 amphibians: 2 frogs and 6 salamanders
  • A number of neo-tropical birds including 1 that was rare
  • 1 rare butterfly
  • 0 invasive animal species

January 2007

The extensive field work of Anna Hess, Field Biologist, resulted in her written report backed-up by computer files with all the data she had collected over 28 site visits from March to November 2006. She established 32 circular permanent plots randomly spaced through the forest with four smaller herb plots within each of the larger plots. Emphasis was placed on an inventory of trees, flowering plant and ferns. We are reviewing the draft of the report currently.

Fortunately the bulk of the invasives species are on the land below the 500-year forest. They are beginning to creep into the forest. A plan is being developed to control the spread of the invasives.

April 2007

Golden-eyeSaxafrage, one of the rare plants in this forest

Anna Hess, Field Biologist, has completed her field work and provided two reports: Inventory of the Brooks-Kenny Tract and Plant Community Analysis of the Brooks-Kenny Tract. This work establishes important forest baseline data. We can now trace the health of the forest, monitor plants with special attention to the six rare species, and provide knowledge to manage the forest appropriately.

Three main forest community types make up the Brooks-Kenny tract: Community I is a relatively young Yellow Buckeye-Yellow Poplar-White Basswood forest found in the northwestern part of the property and in old tree fall gaps. Community II is a Sugar Maple-White Basswood-Yellow Buckeye forest which was found in the northern and central portions of the 500-Year Forest Foundation tract. Community III is a Chesnut Oak-Sugar Maple-Northern Red Oak forest found on the crest of the Clinch Mountain and on its descending ridges.


October 2007

Dale Fields marking path along northern boundaryTwo work projects were identified from the inventory work of Anna Hess, Field Biologist. They are aimed at controlling invasive plants and at clearing a narrow footpath that will provide the necessary access to the property. Along with Steve and Maxine we have hired Dale Fields to undertake this program of work. The Foundation will pay Dale for his work in the forest.


The invasive plants in this forest are a minor problem compared to many forests and for the most part these plants are in the lower northern section of the forest. Dale, under Steve’s leadership, spent several days working on the control of Japanese Stilt Grass and Ailanthus. Our first effort to begin garlic mustard control is planned for the early spring.

Steve and Dale marked the lower boundary of the forest which is along the 2,100 foot elevation contour. A path will generally follow this contour.


May 2008

Northern view from the highest point in the forestIt remains dry here on the Clinch Mountain in far Southwest Virginia! Though the year started out with adequate rain fall, most of the rain passes to the west and north of Scott County. We are now over 3 inches below the normal level for this date! Last year we only received half our normal rain fall and a late freeze was disastrous. Some tree species, spring flowers, and much of our fruit was damaged. (We lost 90% of our blueberries in 2007.)

The huge box elder trees that flourish in the lower sections of our property (not in the 500-year forest) seem to have been hurt the most. Many branches lost their leaves last year, thus producing dead limbs which make for precarious situations near our house and farm buildings.

Damage to trees at higher elevations is not as noticeable, especially the old trees which are well rooted. However this may change if the drought continues as we understand it usually takes 2 or 3 years for it to affect most trees.

Dale Fields and an armful of garlic mustardThe invasive plants, such as the garlic mustard, seem to thrive under this climatic stress and its growth may even have been stimulated. It is back in full force this spring. It appears to be most prevalent in the valleys where it is less dry and has spread both up and down the hollers from the trails that run through them. With the help of Dale Fields we have been able to remove a large number of these plants in the Old Growth section of the property. Dale has spent three days pulling and piling the plants in areas where they were most abundant. Though the plants have finished blooming they will not go to seed for some time yet, so Dale will continue to pull them as time allows.

Garlic mustard seedsOur mountain springs continue to flow! For that we are thankful. All the water coming to our house is gravity fed and the springs are high enough above us to provide the necessary 40 lbs of pressure. We have the sweetest, purist drinking water available anywhere. Because trees have not been cut on our part of the Clinch Mountain for many years we believe the springs will continue to flow much longer than on other properties where major cutting has taken place. If the drought does continue we may soon be providing water to our neighbors and friends. Last summer many shallow wells and non-forested springs in our region went dry.


November 2008

Upper CoveThere are pathways of Japanese stilt grass leading up the mountain from the lower acreage to the 500-Year Forest. Steve and Maxine assume the stilt grass seed is being transported into the Forest along the footpaths by both wildlife and hikers. They plan in the spring to experiment with a flame weeder to knock back stilt grass along the roadways and paths leading into the Forest. At the same time they plan to contract with a local landscaping service to hand pull stilt grass during June and August in specified areas in our Forest.


June 2010

Forest oak four feet in diameterOver the last several years Steve Brooks and Maxine Kenny have had a tough time finding help to tend to invasive control in their Clinch Mountain Preserve. Garlic mustard control was to be the focus this spring. The worker who was lined up came just two times. Now it appears that two local boy scouts, one an Eagle and one a Life scout, may be able to help during the summer time. Their effort will be focused on stilt grass and ailanthus control.


November 2010

Japanese stilt grass on the Run by Maxine Kenny

Now that summer is only a memory we have time to reflect on our continuing struggle to combat garlic mustard, ailanthus and Japanese stilt grass – three of the most tenacious invasives on the Clinch Mountain Preserve’s 500-Year Forest. Fortunately for us we had the assistance of two young, energetic Eagle Scouts who pulled great patches of garlic mustard in the spring. One of the teenagers came back during the summer to help us stalk and destroy a great many ailanthus trees and saplings.

Bipolaris fungus on Stilt grass on Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve.In an unexpected turn of events, nature itself may have set us on a path of biological elimination of the stilt grass that has swept across our lower acreage and along pathways that lead into our 500-Year Forest on the upper slopes of the Clinch Mountain. In early July a forester friend, Russ Richardson, told us about a fungus called Bipolaris that he thought was killing stilt grass on his West Virginia farm. He sent pictures to us of stilt grass that had brown lesions on its leaves and shared an academic paper regarding the phenomenon written by a biologist at Indiana University. Later in July, during a hiking trip to the Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve in southwest Virginia, we saw stilt grass along the hiking trails that appeared to be afflicted with the same brown lesions. Subsequently, that sample was confirmed as infected by Bipolaris fungus.

Soon after we saw what we believed to be Bipolaris lesions on the stilt grass along our own driveway. We sent it off to be analyzed and it too was confirmed as Bipolaris. We checked back with Russ in West Virginia to discuss the infestation on our property and he said that the fungus spreads in much the same way as stilt grass itself – that is, it rides along pathways traveled by both humans and animals – so he wasn’t surprised that after we waded through infected stilt grass at the Pinnacle that it had hitchhiked back home with us on our trouser legs. He also told us that much of the thriving stilt grass that he observed on his property last year was now reduced to a dead, dry thatch! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if nature could rid our fields and forests of stilt grass?


June 2012

Probable or Known Extent of Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) infestation across the Clinch Mountain 500-Year Forest

Map showing probable extent of Garlic Mustard

The recent study conducted this spring by Rodney Nice identified Garlic Mustard as a serious threat to the under growth of the forest through much of this forest.  See the accompanying chart.   Hopefully a program can be designed to stall the Garlic Mustard’s advance upwards in the forest without affecting the pristine streams that flow on the property.  To a much lesser degree, three other invasive plants of concern are Japanese Stilt Grass, Ailanthus, and Multiflora Rose.

 


Fall 2013

looking-up-lower-tree--meSMThe never-ending efforts to eradicate invasives led to a discussion at the October forest owners luncheon of a fungus that kills Japanese stilt grass. However, forest owner Steve Brooks who made the presentation had to conclude that it’s not as yet a meaningful option in battling the invasive. Similarly, a report in the Foundation newsletter of damage to large trees by wild grapevines prompted an email exchange on the virtues of swinging on vines. Steve said he could safely promise that he wouldn’t eliminate them all. This forest also reported discovery of a huge, 50-pound Hen of the Woods polypore. The owners are also beginning their readiness for a revisit of biotic inventory plots.

 

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