Student Conservation Association intern Andrea Powell participated in her first prairie restoration at Kennedy Secondary School. They don't do much snow seeding where she is from in Florida/USFWS.
Partners Begin New Prairie Restoration and
Outdoor Classroom in Fergus Falls
More than 20 youth and adults joined forces in Fergus Falls, Minnesota to restore 1.5 acres of prairie and create an outdoor classroom at Kennedy Secondary School for all to enjoy. On March 13, 2014, these outdoor enthusiasts seeded the site, kicking-off a Partners for Fish and Wildlife Voluntary Habitat Improvement Project which will be available to 6th-12th graders and their teachers to use, as well as anyone passing by who wishes to explore.
These snow seed sowers included a home school family, two parents, students of the Prairie Science Class, members of Jr. Friends of the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center, Student Conservation Association interns, staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat and Population Evaluation Team, and employees of the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center. Fergus Falls Wetland Management District Partners for Fish and Wildlife biologist Shawn Papon spearheaded the effort. Parking was provided courtesy of Grace United Methodist Church.
In less than one hour, participants hand-sowed more than 12 pounds of seed representing more than nine species of native grasses and at least 15 forb species mixed into 120 pounds of saw dust which was collected from nest box building in the District shop. The weather and snow conditions were perfect and worth the wait from the earlier cold and windy fall season.
Late winter / early spring is a perfect time to plant prairie seeds in snow. As the snow melts, it carries the seeds down to the soil. The seeds make excellent contact with the wet, warming soil, which are ideal conditions for germination. Fewer seeds are lost to hungry songbirds compared to a fall seeding.
After seeding was completed, everyone helped refurbish two mallard hen houses on the larger wetland downhill from the prairie site. In cleaning them out, we discovered one hen house pulled off a successful hatch because we found egg membranes inside the nest.
Current Prairie Science Class students look forward to simply stepping out the school door as middle and high school students to take a short walk to their school prairie. They won't need to take the bus. The school district will provide continued maintenance that will take less time and money than weekly mowing. Service staff will continue to monitor the site and provide technical expertise and curriculum support as needed.
By Molly Stoddard