When the NTMWD finishes planting the final two million trees at designated mitigation areas around Bois d’Arc Lake, it will bring the total number of trees planted to 6.3 million and conclude one of the project’s biggest environmental components.
Planting in phases allowed workers to establish the trees in early spring, the ideal time for them to take root. It also allowed them to add trees, where needed, to create mature forests in the best locations. These newly planted trees are pillars for the rest of the project’s restoration. Trees support complex ecosystems for wildlife, help control erosion and flooding, improve air quality and hold together newly restored streambanks.
One million more trees have been planted than the five million originally planned. The additional trees helped the crews adapt to what works best in different locations on Riverby Ranch and the Upper Bois d’Arc Mitigation Area.
“It takes time to learn which habitats work best in certain areas,” said Project Ecologist Brandon Hall, who works with NTMWD’s contractor Resource Environmental Solutions (RES). “We came up with an original plan, but our job is to work with what nature wants to do. There were some areas that we labeled in the plan as grasslands, but they ended up being better restored as forest, and vice versa. We replanted the trees accordingly.”
The result is a highly diverse and resilient landscape that provides homes for even more wildlife, including butterflies, bobcats and a variety of birds (see painted bunting below).Even though mitigation construction wraps up this year, RES will continue to work on-site to maintain the forests.
“We are growing a functioning forest,” said RES Project Manager Matt Stahman. “A lot of our efforts will be forestry, to develop those saplings into the tree stands. We will be out there for however long it takes to satisfy the conditions of the permit.”
Current staff will remain on-site for many more years to maintain fences, conduct regular monitoring missions and manage invasive species. Staffing will reduce over time as maintenance needs decrease (approximately 20 years).
“Think of it like a garden,” Hall explained. “The construction phase of a garden includes planting and tilling, but then it requires weeding and possibly planting a trellis and so forth to maintain. Our work is similar, just on a larger, 17,000-acre scale.”
Ultimately, the newly planted forests and other project-related restorations will grow into a thriving natural corridor stretching all the way from the Bois d’Arc Lake dam to the Red River.
SOURCE: North Texas Municipal Water District