Oak Savanna Restoration
An exciting spring restoration project is underway! Refuge staff and Conservation Corps Minnesota are working to regenerate 5 acres of oak savanna habitat on the Long Meadow Lake Unit.
Oak savanna was once a widespread habitat in Minnesota, comprised of bountiful grasses, scattered oak trees and colorful wildflowers. Over the years, these areas have been altered by development, cultivation and fire suppression. This habitat restoration project will remove unwanted woody species and non-native plants that out compete and displace native savanna plants. Controlled fires will be reintroduced as another habitat management tool.
Crew members of Conservation Corps Minnesota began restoration work near the Bloomington Visitor Center in late March 2013. Using brush saws and chainsaws, they removed invasive woody and tree species including common buckthorn, tartarian honeysuckle, and Siberian elm. Crews girdled larger trees to initiate their decay and cut smaller stems. After cutting, they applied chemicals to inhibit further plant growth. This combined approach prevents trees from resprouting, which exacerbates the problem of unwanted vegetation. The woody debris was collected and used as biofuel for District Energy in Saint Paul.
Fire will also be used as an oak savanna restoration tool over the next several years. Historically, these areas were periodically set on fire by Native Americans or lightning strikes. Without wildfires, the open oak savannas were gradually replaced with forests. Restoration and management of these areas will require controlled burns to help invigorate native grasses and wildflowers. Crews seeded with oats and savanna grass mix to provide temporary ground cover that prevents soil erosion while native plants regenerate.
Hike our trails this spring at the Bloomington Visitor Center and watch our restoration story unfold!
This habitat restoration project is funded by a Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Natural Resources (LCCMR) grant to the Minnesota Valley Trust. For information on Conservation Corps Minnesota, click here.