management at Flint Hills NWR is focused on migratory waterfowl, management
activities also promote other migratory birds, and many resident wildlife
species. We also protect remnants of the
native tallgrass prairie that once dominated the landscape in this area and
restore additional prairies, and conduct restoration and management of the
forested areas that occur naturally along streams and rivers.
Tallgrass prairie once dominated the
landscape across more than 170 million acres of the United States including the
area where Flint Hills NWR now lies. The
area dominated by tallgrass prairie was sought out by early settlers for its
rich soil and was quickly converted to cropland. Small remnants of the native prairie remain
intact at Flint Hills NWR, and current management is directed at protecting
those remnant prairies. Tallgrass
prairie ecosystems are adapted to wildfire intervals of every 3-5 years and
without fire are soon converted to forest, so prescribed fire is employed to
mimic those requirements. We also hay and
graze prairie areas to mimic the grazing by bison that naturally occurred.
Restoration occurs in two main phases:
removal of unwanted vegetation, and planting of native species.
Removal is conducted both to reduce woody plant coverage and to
discourage spread, and is often conducted in several phases, combining
prescribed fire, mechanical removal, and/or chemical treatment by herbicide.
Specialized heavy equipment is used to cut and stack trees. Smaller
trees (seedlings) and brush can be cut using a tractor-mounted brush hog.
Herbicide is usually applied to freshly-cut stumps. Prescribed
burns can assist either before or after mechanical removal (or both).
Herbicide treatment, combined with other control methods, is often used to
control invasive, non-native plants such as Sericea Lezpediza, and Johnson
Grass. Herbicides can be applied by a backpack sprayer, ATV mounted or
tractor-mounted boom sprayer.
After removal of unwanted woody and/or
herbaceous plants, native prairie species are then planted via broadcasting or
seed drill. Prairie grasses such as Little Bluestem, Indiangrass, and swichgrass
are planted, along with a wide variety of native wildflowers. Some areas may
have to undergo several plantings, and other management methods will
continually be used, such as prescribed fire and mechanical plant removal.
Woody and non-native species encroachment on Native Prairies
Historically, the Neosho River floodplain was covered with
hundreds of shallow wetlands depressions that filled during the frequent flood
events that sent the river out of its banks. During the hot, dry summer
months these wetlands grew vegetation that typically produces a tremendous
amount of small seeds that are the ideal diet for migrating waterfowl as they
pass through the area. When fall rains recharge the wetlands, the
wetlands provided the food and shelter migrating waterfowl required to return
to their nesting grounds in prime condition to nest successfully.
Most of these natural wetlands have been lost throughout the river
floodplain because of agriculture and other developments. To mimic the
natural wet and dry cycles on the Refuge, the staff actively manages over 2,500
acres of restored wetland habitat through the use of pumps, levees, and water
control structures. The Refuge staff uses different management practices to restore
or enhance wetlands including mechanical and chemical control of undesirable
and non-native plant species. The staff rotates treatment of wetland
units on multi-year management practice to allow for abundant growth of
desirable species for migratory waterfowl.
Because of the destructive power of flood events along the Neosho River annual
maintenance to wetland levees and water control structures is required. These structures are built in a manner that
reduces damage or in a manner that isolates the damage to a location where it
can be easily repaired to reduce those maintenance requirements.
Mitigation project, constructing new levee system.
We are currently looking for landowners interested in participating or learning more about the Legacy Conservation Easement Program, contact Refuge Manager Jack Bohannan at 620-392-5553x103.