Vegetation Management at Sutter Basin Conservation Bank


To Mow or Not to Mow, That is the Question

Spring has officially sprung!  The birds are singing, flowers are starting to bloom and the grass is growing.  During this time of year our land management crew starts to get antsy.  They know they have a narrow window of opportunity to complete certain land management tasks before the days get hot, the water dries up, and the plants begin to die.  One task in particular has a tight deadline on Mother Nature’s clock-the mowing of access roads around our Sutter Basin Conservation Bank.  Although it is one of the less glamorous jobs we do here at Westervelt Ecological Services, it is no less important from an ecology and safety perspective.

Sutter Basin Conservation Bank seasonally boasts a healthy population of migratory birds including many species of waterfowl and wading birds.  During this time of year, these avian amigos  are making nests and laying eggs in areas of high and/or dead grasses, a process that starts en force in early April and continuing into early summer.  Meanwhile, late season rains like we’ve seen this year, limit the ability to effectively mow these areas throughout the winter and well into late March or early April.  This means the opportunity to mow is limited to anywhere from several days to several weeks.

Sutter Basin 27 oct 09 005

Why is it important to mow? Tall, dry grass can start a fire with the flick of a cigarette, a spark from a misfiring irrigation pump, or even a pickup truck’s exhaust pipe dragging across it- one of the leading causes of grass fires in our area!  Waiting to mow until the grass is tall and dry is also a prominent cause of grass fires.  By mowing the access roads around the Bank when the grass is green, the chances of starting a wildfire fire diminish, protecting human and wildlife safety alike

With such a narrow window of opportunity to mow, after the rains stop and before the laying begins, it’s all hands on duck, I mean deck!  We know the mowing must happen to protect our natural resources and safety but avoiding and minimizing impacts to the native flora and fauna is one of our primary missions at Westervelt. It’s all part of the balance we strike every year to maintain our commitment, to the support wildlife species and to the safety of our region.

-Lucy Harrington