Most of the grasses found in Delaware and the northeast are non-native cool-season grasses such as smooth brome grass, Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue and orchardgrass and will not be managed for in as refuge habitats. Instead, native warm-season grasses will be encouraged to grow and be maintained in designated grassland management areas primarily dominated by coarse textured, droughty soils as identified and explained in our Habitat Management Plan (HMP).
Predominant native grasses include switchgrass, bushy bluestem, little bluestem, foxtail barley and purple-top fluffygrass. These native grass species are stimulated by fire and easily maintained with prescribed burning or periodic mowing. Prescribed fire is a habitat management technique that can produce excellent nesting and brood-rearing habitats for birds of conservation concern identified in our CCP and HMP.
Prescribed burning is the most effective management tool to maintain and rejuvenate native grassland habitats. Mowing is a second alternative technique used to set back succession and reduce competition from invasive woody plants. Disking/chopping to expose bare soil is another management activity we may use from time to time to restore and maintain grassland and/or shrubland habitats. Based on annual habitat condition reviews, mowing activities would be conducted as required at the end of nesting season (April 15 to August 15). Prescribed burns would be conducted every 3 to 5 years during the winter months in conjunction with mowing or disking as needed to maintain and enhance the biological diversity and integrity of native early successional upland habitats on the refuge.
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Prime Hook NWR is embarking on a large-scale tidal marsh restoration project in the wetlands previously managed as freshwater impoundments. It's one of the largest marsh restoration projects ever in the eastern U.S. Restoration from degraded open water conditions to back-barrier salt marsh habitats will involve re-building dunes, closing breaches, and restoring tidal channels throughout the marsh. The restored hydrological and salinity regimes will support the natural recolonization of salt marsh grasses in Unit II and parts of Unit III.