The first is the vernal pool season. I am sure you have noticed the mild winter and abnormally warm temperatures. Record highs on several days and overall, one of the warmest winters on record. Global warming? Who knows, but it will likely have an impact on the start of the vernal pool season.
Every year I mention that you need to contact your wetland scientist to set up monitoring for vernal pool activity. In case you have forgotten, the vernal pool season is when amphibians and reptiles move from their upland habitats to isolated flooded basins to procreate and lay their eggs. It is a relatively narrow window, usually 2 to 3 months, when evidence of egg masses or tadpoles can be found to verify that the basins are truly acting as vernal pools.
The basins can be very small, and yet contain a large number of egg masses. The primary species we are looking for are wood frogs, having green egg masses, and salamanders, having white egg masses. The number of egg masses observed can provide a basis for the functional value of the vernal pool.
Commonly, we think in terms of the vernal pool season starting in mid-April. However, with the warm winter, it is possible that we may see vernal pool activity as early as mid-March. Which means that folks need to start scheduling with their wetland scientists to view the various parcels of interest.
Another issue is the lack of snow. Unless we have a very rainy spring, the hydroperiod for the vernal pools may be reduced. We commonly think of functional vernal pools has having a typical hydroperiod of at least two months of flooding and the pools having the most egg masses being wet for four months before drying up.
Now, you might think that this is a good thing if you are hoping that your project does not have any vernal pools. On the contrary, it is bad thing. The period of time that we have to view the pools is reduced, so there is the potential that a critical observation may be missed. Some of the species requiring a longer hydroperiod to develop may not be successful.
If the vernal pool season is shortened or deemed to be virtually unsuccessful, the regulators will take the “observations of no vernal pool activity in basins” as being “unreliable data”. Translation? In some cases it means “see you next year”.
Well, the good news is that February 28th, the outdoor driving range was open, and I managed to re-groove my rotten golf swing!
The second issue is tree cutting. I just don’t understand the desire to clear cut parcels of land before the process of developing the land has even started. I have mentioned in the past that logging activity, if done badly, with rutting and disruption of natural flow paths, can create more wetlands. This admonition seems for perennially fall of deaf ears. Don’t cut the trees!
Well, now I have actual data that cutting of trees can create more wetlands on a parcel. In the past, I have talked about the “pumps” on the land that suck water out of the soil. I am talking about the trees, which, when spring comes around, are actively lowering the water tables as they form new leaves and transpire.
Did you know that a six-inch diameter red maple will suck up to 110 gallons of water per day out of the ground in summer? I didn’t know that until this past winter. And the reason I heard that is based upon a very sad story for one developer.
Back in 2012, a parcel of land was delineated. It was densely vegetated with trees, saplings and a thick shrub layer. It was an early successional forest because the land had originally been in agriculture in the 1950’s. At that time, the amount out wetland was 0.8 acres.
In the winter of 2013 into 2014, the parcel was clear cut. Some stumping took place. Lots of ruts from skidders. Virtually every stick was removed.
In late 2015, a new delineation was done. The jurisdictional area was now 1.5 acres. Both delineations were good. I can attest to that. So, by virtue of removing the trees, stumping, and rutting, the amount of jurisdictional wetlands had nearly doubled. Guess who was not happy about that?
The final thought-------don’t cut the trees!
“In My View” is an opinion article that will be published once a month. It is my view of wetland and other environmental issues that will or may affect your business or organization. It will sometimes give you updates on new rules or legislation that has recently passed. In other cases, I will discuss legislation that is “in the works” at our state capital. As the name would imply, it is my view of what this rule, legislation or change means to you. I am constantly meeting with clients, friends and local regulatory officials who are asking me what this rule means or what that piece of legislation does. For that reason, I am posting this for associates of GES who might care to have this information. I will not be political, but I do reserve the right to be opinionated. If you know of someone who might want to receive future articles, feel free to re-post or link to this page. If in the coming months there is a topic, law, rule or regulation that you would like me to discuss, let us know. If I feel that I am competent to say something about it, I will discuss it in the future.
That concludes this Months article. Each past article will be stored on our website at www.gesinc.biz or Google: Gove Environmental Services, Inc. I hope this will be of value to you.
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