Tree clearing on Rideout Road

Tree clearing on Rideout Road (southbound) at Toftoy exit Wednesday, May 26, 2021 on Redstone Arsenal in Huntsivlle, Ala. (Eric Schultz / Redstone Rocket)

Driving into Gate 9, just past the new stoplight where everyone makes a U-turn to go back to Goss Road, some drivers may have noticed a slightly different view. You can now see through the trees.

The Directorate of Public Works is clearing the underbrush out of some of the forested areas on post.

The goal is multifaceted, according to Installation Forester and Pest Management Coordinator Greg Hicks. Clearing the underbrush from wooded areas can help control the spread of invasive plant species, lower the risk of large brush fires on test ranges by depriving the fire of fuel or, in some cases, cut down on the number of deer strikes in a certain area. It can also be for aesthetic reasons.

“All of these things that we are doing are for multiple purposes,” he said. “It just kind of depends on where they are and what’s under there.”

The Garrison has completed clearing about 90 of 140 acres of fuel, as Hicks calls it, from around post and there are plans in the works to clear another 300 acres.

The next step is to go back into those areas with some herbicides to knock down some of the vines that have started crawling up the trees.

Then once the invasive species in the underbrush are under control, it can be more easily managed with prescribed burns.

“Once you get those invasive species in there, it’s harder to use prescribed burning because (those invasive species) are one of the things that makes it just not burnable, basically,” Hicks said.

He said they try to use controlled burns to manage the undergrowth every one to five years, depending on the rate at which the vegetation is growing.

Managing what grows under the trees also benefits the animals who eat the vegetation.

“The animals are usually appreciative of that understory clearing,” Hicks said. “It provides more food for them because you get new growth every year, and that’s what the animals like to eat.”

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