Protecting Running Buffalo Clover (Trifolium stoloniferum) on the Wayne National Forest and Adjacent Private Land

SRunning Buffalo Clover.
Running Buffalo Clover (Trifolium stoloniferum) listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Photo by Chad Kirschbaum.

orest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service personnel inventorying running buffalo clover.
Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service personnel inventorying running buffalo clover. Photo by Chad Kirschbaum.

Forest Service personnel treating the non-native invasive species.
Forest Service personnel treating the non-native invasive species garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). Photo by Chad Kirschbaum.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), a private landowner and the Wayne National Forest (WNF) are working together to fight invasives and protect a population of the federally threatened plant, running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum). In April 2008, the two agencies and the private landowner signed cooperative agreements to treat 72 acres of non-native invasive species (NNIS) on private property adjacent to WNF land. "We are very excited to be partnering with the Forest Service to aid in the recovery of running buffalo clover on private and public land" said Sarena Selbo an endangered species biologist from the USFWS.

Biologists from the WNF and USFWS have been working together on invasive species issues in southern Ohio since the formation of Ohio's first Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA), the Iron Furnace CWMA, which was started in 2006. A steering committee led by representatives from 15 county, federal, state, university, and private organizations are seeking to develop a strategic invasive plant management plan for the area. "I'm excited about working with folks at Wayne National Forest to protect endangered species," said Kristin Westad, the biologist from the USFWS Private Land Office who initiated this project. "This project blends their expertise with local biology and with my program's ability to restore habitat on private land. I think we're going to really please the landowner by removing invasive species, and we're specifically reducing important threats to the running buffalo clover," Westad commented.

A grant from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Wildlife program is channeling funds to the Forest Service. Using these funds, the Wayne National Forest is working with the private landowner using the agency’s Wyden Amendment authority.  The Wyden Amendment allows the Forest Service to expend federal dollars on private lands where there is a direct benefit to adjacent Forest Service lands.  In this case the treatment of NNIS plants on the adjacent private land helps recover the running buffalo clover on both the private and WNF lands NNIS plants are also being treated on adjacent WNF lands. A total of 75 acres will be treated for NNIS.

The non-native invasive species (NNIS) that will be treated include garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), Asiatic stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum), tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) and Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica). These NNIS will be controlled using chemical and mechanical methods based on the 2007 Wayne National Forest NNIS Control Environmental Assessment.

Running buffalo clover was discovered on the WNF in 2005. The WNF and the USFWS have been monitoring the plants each year. "The number of plants found and the number of plants flowering have been increasing steadily over the last three years," said Selbo. Shortly after the running buffalo clover was found, the WNF district botanist counted 34 rooted individuals. In 2006 and 2007 the WNF and USFWS team counted 69 and 87 rooted plants each year respectively. The number of flowering plants has also grown each year, from 17 in 2006 to 21 in 2007. Monitoring will continue in May 2008.

The threats to running buffalo clover at this site include too much sunlight, Asiatic stiltgrass and intense ATV traffic. In 2006 trees were felled to create a barrier to ATV traffic. The illegal traffic may have been lessened somewhat but ATV riders have found a way around the barriers and continue to adversely impact the running buffalo clover population. Each year Asiatic stiltgrass has been cut at the site and some vegetative competition for tree saplings was removed to provide more shading and increased the suitable habitat for the running buffalo clover to potentially occupy in the near future.