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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Partners for Fish and Wildlife: Oleston Ausland Prairie Restoration Project

Region 3, December 12, 2012
Areas of the project site were covered with pines and deciduous trees of varying age classes.
Areas of the project site were covered with pines and deciduous trees of varying age classes. - Photo Credit: n/a
Smaller trees and tops were chipped and transported off-site for use as biomass fuel.
Smaller trees and tops were chipped and transported off-site for use as biomass fuel. - Photo Credit: n/a
Larger trees were harvested for dimensional lumber.
Larger trees were harvested for dimensional lumber. - Photo Credit: n/a
The Necedah Refuge fire crew and Friends volunteers conducted a prescribed fire to reduce woody debris and a years of duff accumulation. The
The Necedah Refuge fire crew and Friends volunteers conducted a prescribed fire to reduce woody debris and a years of duff accumulation. The "black" improves conditions to establish native plants. - Photo Credit: n/a
The prairie has died out to shades of brown by late November, but some species, such as round-headed bush clover are visible. In the near future lupine and possibly Karner blue butterflies will be visible from the sign commemorating the family's interest in conservation.
The prairie has died out to shades of brown by late November, but some species, such as round-headed bush clover are visible. In the near future lupine and possibly Karner blue butterflies will be visible from the sign commemorating the family's interest in conservation. - Photo Credit: n/a
Roughly 55 native grass and forb species were planted. Some were drilled, others broadcast seeded, and a few species were hand-sown.
Roughly 55 native grass and forb species were planted. Some were drilled, others broadcast seeded, and a few species were hand-sown. - Photo Credit: n/a

Four siblings, joint inheritors of their grandparents’ Adams County farm, wanted to improve habitat for Karner blue butterflies. This meant restoring grass and forb species associated with prairie and oak-pine barrens. Over many cups of coffee, these conservation-minded landowners worked with a Partners for Fish and Wildlife biologist to develop a restoration and management plan. Roughly 25 percent of this 75-acre project area was overgrown with white and jack pines, as well as a mix of mostly low-quality deciduous trees. The remaining land was largely dominated by smooth brome and a sprinkling of native grassland species.

The first step in restoring this land involved removing most trees for use either as saw logs or as biomass. Twenty-two mature oaks were left standing as savanna. After tree removal, the area was seeded with a mix of approximately 55 forb and grass species that are adapted to this area’s sandy soils. Since the project’s primary motivation was to create butterfly habitat, it was important to plant patches of lupine, as well as other forbs. Karner larvae feed solely on lupine plants, while adults take nectar from flowering plants. Grassland birds such as bobolinks and meadowlarks will also benefit.

The Necedah Refuge fire crew and members of the Friends of Necedah National Wildlife Refuge conducted Necedah’s first prescribed fire on private lands in spring of 2012. Fire helps reduce woody regrowth, consumes woody debris and rejuvenates the site by removing duff and allowing sunlight to reach bare soil. For example, lead plant had lain dormant in the seed bank until fire created suitable conditions. Now the site has this species - in an area where it had not been planted. Native insects, birds and plants will all benefit from the dedication and land ethic of these landowners and others might be inspired to follow suit.

Learn more about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/partners/

Contact Info: Mark Pfost, (608) 565-4418, mark_pfost@fws.gov