gardener of the forest
Wednesday, May 14, 2014 11:00 AM
Abe Bear carries a pack of Roundup on his back as he looks to tackle some of the invasive species attempting to smother the native growth near his parents' home in Rykers' Ridge.
Abe Bear works to clear invasive species of plants from a property off Telegraph Hill on Thursday. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchieemail@example.com)
On the property, a small patch of tulip trees fights for space and nutrients with invasive plants like bush honeysuckle, privet, oriental bittersweet and a few others.
"This is multi-floral rose. It's probably the worst or the most common invasive that people know," he said, pointing out the bush with the nozzle of his spray can before dousing the plant with Roundup. "It'll just take over. Most people just kind of accept the fact that it's there, but it's not that hard to control."
Bear, who graduated from Madison Consolidated High School in 2002, has worked for the states of Indiana and Virginia but recently moved back to Madison with his wife and two children to start his own business as a forester.
The job requires Bear to trek through woods, mark trees that need to be removed and control invasive species. The key elements are maintenance and management, and Bear sees his work in the woods much like a gardener would view a vegetable plot.
"If you went out in the spring and planted your seeds but did nothing until harvest time, when you come back you'd get some vegetables but you wouldn't have a very good crop," he said.
"I'm kind of the gardener of the forest. I pick out the trees that are the better, the ones that should go and (remove) the invasive species."
Bear graduated from Purdue University in 2006. He said he went into forestry because he always had a healthy love of the outdoors and enjoyed learning about trees and plants. His father, Dave Bear, a teacher at Madison Consolidated High School and a woodworker, taught him the essentials.
"It's something you learn more about all the time," Bear said.
This time of the year, Bear stays busy with planting trees and then removing invasive species. A good portion of his work revolves around assisting people in improving their woodland plots. That can come from a variety of areas. Some clients hope to log their timber, while others hope to provide the overall best habitat for wildlife.
Bear said timber marking is one of his favorite parts of the job. That requires taking an inventory of the trees in the areas and then making a judgment on what needs to be removed and what will bring the best quality lumber.
"A lot of people think you're doing a bad thing by cutting a tree, but really, it's probably the most sustainable resource we have," he said.
He said the goal is to make people's woodland healthy but also profitable.
"You can add a lot of value with property management if you just take the time to do so," he said.
While woodland acreage has made a comeback since the area was settled and then clear cut, invasive species - as well as land division - now pose a threat to woodlands.
Many invasive species threatening the native life are ornamental plants imported from Asia. The plants are aggressive and leaf out early in the spring.
"They're just really hard for the native to compete with," Bear said.
Bear's new business - Bear Forestry - will comprise of timber sales, timber stand improvement, timber appraisals, invasive species control, wildlife habitat improvement and food plot guidance.
He sees a lot of potential in Jefferson County and the surrounding area, he said. And he's excited to be back home launching his own business.
"It's kind of always been my goal," he said.