Central Texans Replant Native Grasses

Filed under: — Stormwind @ 6:30 am

From the story, "On a Holland ranch, vestiges of a sea of grass," in the Temple Daily Telegram:

In about 1859, an awestruck New York journalist got his first look at the prairie grass that once blanketed much of Central Texas.

“We came out suddenly, as if a curtain had risen, upon a broad prairie, reaching in swells like the ocean after a great storm,” wrote Frederick Law Olmsted (who would later design New York City’s Central Park).

Remnants of this legendary sea of grass that covered Central Texas several millennia before Europeans arrived with their steel tools, turning the soil, and later fencing the prairie, can still be found in parts of Bell County today.

You just have to know where to look.

During fall and winter, a bunch grass commonly called little bluestem is easily identified – even to city folk.  ….

Read the full story at the Temple Daily Telegram.


Todd Would Save Wallace Prairie With His Big Give

Filed under: — Stormwind @ 12:01 am

In today’s Dallas Morning News Community Opinion section article, "Your very own big give," Todd White wish he had the money to protect Wallace Prairie, the well known prairie remnant in Rockwall County.

"If I had a spare $10 million, I would buy the Rockwall County land known as the Wallace Prairie (if they’d sell it to me) and dedicate it as a conservation preserve forever, thus keeping an area of unbroken blackland prairie intact for future generations to enjoy.

Todd W. White, Rockwall"

If anyone knows Todd, let him know about the Native Prairies Association of Texas (NPAT)!  He should be a member!  🙂


ESA Advocates Prairie Ecosystem Services for Biofuel

Filed under: — Stormwind @ 7:11 am

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) released a policy statement that advocates we consider the ecosystem services and ecological sustainability of biofuel sources, and highlights native prairie and native plants as an example:

"CONSERVATION OF ECOSYSTEM SERVICES. A focus on ecosystem services will provide the foundation necessary for win-win scenarios. It is easy to design systems for maximum crop yields; over a century of agronomic research has shown that this can be done very successfully. Managing for other ecosystem services also provided by agricultural landscapes is less common but equally necessary.  Lower yields from an unfertilized native prairie, for example, may be acceptable in light of the other benefits provided by native plants in an agricultural landscape. These include:

  • A complete and closed cycling of nutrients;
  • Minimized flooding and increased groundwater recharge;
  • Enhanced  carbon sequestration in the soil because tilling would be unnecessary;
  • Fewer pests because habitat for insects and birds that prey on them is left intact;
  • Genetic diversity;
  • Reduced nitrogen and phosphorus runoff because no fertilizer is needed;
  • Reduced soil erosion due to continuous soil cover;
  • Reduced nitrous oxide production; and
  • Pollinator habitat and resources."

Read the full article, "Biofuel Sustainability", on the Ecological Society of America’s web site.


NPAT Hiring Executive Director for Texas Prairie Conservation!

Filed under: — Stormwind @ 8:39 pm

NPAT is hiring an Executive Director!

Native Prairies Association of Texas (TX), Executive Director – NPAT seeks a full time Executive Director with a passion for conservation to lead the organization in its mission to conserve and restore the native prairies and other grasslands of Texas. NPAT is a land trust protecting over 1,200 acres of native Texas prairie, including critically imperiled tallgrass prairie.

Responsibilities include fundraising and donor relations, strategic planning, and community outreach in addition to overall management of the organization. Candidates should possess a successful fundraising record, strong communication and management skills, and experience with conservation. Salary and benefits are competitive and commensurate with experience. NPAT is an equal opportunity employer.

To apply, send cover letter, resume, and references to: (preferred) apply@texasprairie.org or NPAT, Search Committee, 2002 – A Guadalupe St. PMB 290, Austin, TX 78705-5609. Applications accepted until position is filled (please submit by March 31st, 2008).

Visit http://texasprairie.org/ for a full job description and more information about NPAT.

SF Chronicle: Into the Bluestem Sea

Filed under: — Stormwind @ 8:28 pm

The San Francisco Chronicle recently ran a great article about tallgrass prairie, prairie conservation, and the Flint Hills of Oklahoma and Kansas:

"I could have been in Africa. Before me the tawny savanna stretched unimpeded to a horizon where it met a vast ceiling of blue. The soft folds of land were stippled with grazing wildlife: enormous wildebeest-like creatures munching peacefully on the ochre carpet of grasses. This was Oklahoma, though the vistas that I surveyed were as beautiful, once as widespread and every bit as endangered as the grasslands thousands of miles away.

I had come to Oklahoma to revisit the tallgrass prairie that, as little as 100 years ago, covered 142 million acres of the country’s heart in a great swath that ran from Manitoba to the Gulf of Mexico. Today, less than 10 percent of the original tallgrass prairie remains, most of it given over to farming. The few enduring unbroken stretches lie in areas too difficult to cultivate: in the appropriately named Flint Hills of Oklahoma and Kansas."

Read the full article, Into the Bluestem Sea by Linda Watanabe McFerrin, on the San Francisco Chronicle’s web page.

I’m back!

Filed under: — Stormwind @ 8:22 pm

I’m back!  Sorry for the month that I did not post: I transferred to a new position at work, and in addition I have been busy with NPAT work regarding grants and getting ready to hire an executive director!


Clymer Meadow Grows By 57 Acres

Filed under: — Stormwind @ 9:04 am

Clymer Meadow PaintbrushClymer Meadow, the largest protected tallgrass prairie in Texas’ Blackland Prairie, grew by 57 acres due to a donation from a generous landowner to The Nature Conservancy during 2007.

See a slideshow of native prairie flowers and grasses at Clymer Meadow in NPAT’s photo album.

From The Nature Conservancy:

Highlights of The Nature Conservancy’s Texas conservation achievements in 2007 include:

– A donation of 57 acres of virgin tallgrass prairie at Clymer Meadow by a private landowner whose family has owned the land since the 1850s

The property, adjacent to the Conservancy’s Clymer Meadow Preserve north of Dallas, adds to the diversity of the preserve with a different composition of grass species. The family has worked with the Conservancy for 13 years to maintain the prairie through conservation management practices and is a member of the organization’s Texas Land Stewards’ Society. The land donation brings the total of Clymer Meadow Preserve to 1,045 acres.


First Lady and President Tour Prairie Restoration with NPAT Member

Filed under: — Stormwind @ 9:27 am

NPAT member Mike Williams talks with Laura and George Bush about Prairie Chapel Ranch tallgrass prairie restorationFirst Lady Laura Bush, President Bush, and Native Prairies Association of Texas (NPAT) member Mike Williams recently toured the tallgrass prairie restoration at the first couple’s Prairie Chapel Ranch with reporter Bret Baier.  Mike Williams is the restoration project leader and owner of NPAT-protected Simpson Prairie.

View the video of the tour at the Fox News web site, where the first couple and Mike talk about prairie restoration, Simpson Prairie, and the Native Prairie Association of Texas.

Mike Williams has been using prairie seed collected from Simpson Prairie as the main seed source for the prairie restoration project on Prairie Chapel Ranch, where he is planting native plants such as the native grasses and prairie flowers that thrived on the land before European settlement.

Mike protected Simpson Prairie, a rare and beautiful remnant of Texas tallgrass prairie, for current and future generations via a conservation easement with NPAT.  A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a landowner and land trust which permanently protects native prairie or other natural features of the property in perpetuity.

Additional seed sources for the prairie restoration project on the Bush Ranch include NPAT members Bob and Mickey Burleson’s native prairie remnant and restoration near Temple, TX.

Laura Bush also wrote an article that appears on the Fox News web site about native prairie restoration and resources available to private landowners.

A field trip to Mike Williams’ Simpson Prairie near Valley Mills will be held on Saturday, May 3rd at 9:30am.  We will meet at the bank parking lot on the northwest corner of the main intersection in Crawford and then proceed to Simpson Prairie.

Beautiful and productive tallgrass prairie is the most endangered large ecosystem in North America, and less that 1% of Texas’ tallgrass prairie remains for current and future generations.  Native prairie is also habitat for the grassland birds, the most declining group of birds in North America.  Conservation and ecological restoration of tallgrass prairie is an important method to protect and increase habitat for the imperiled native plant communities and prairie wildlife like grassland birds.

Native grasslands also protect and improve water quality and sequester carbon in the soil to fight climate change.  Tallgrass prairie plantings have been shown to be the best source of cellulosic biofuel while simultaneously sequestering more carbon in the soil than is released by its use as fuel.

You can help protect native prairie by joining the Native Prairies Association of Texas (NPAT).  You can also restore native prairie on your own land, and if you own a remnant or restored tallgrass prairie please consider a conservation easement with a land trust like NPAT.

Go to the Fox News website to view the video of Laura and George Bush and Mike Williams and read the prairie restoration article by Laura Bush.  View a slideshow of native prairie flowers and grasses on Simpson Prairie at NPAT’s web site.


Blackland Prairie Meadows and Herbicide

Filed under: — Stormwind @ 9:17 am

Prairie Foxglove at Quebe PrairieThe March 30, 2007 issue of "Rangeland Ecology and Management" contains an interesting article, "Blackland tallgrass prairie vegetation dynamics following cessation of herbicide application", applicable to native prairie hay meadows.

K.R. Hickman, and J.D. Derner of the USDA ARS found that removing herbicide applications of Blackland Prairie remnants after 25 years of application led to a dramatic increase in annual forbs but not the return of many later successional perennial forbs (herbaceous flowering plants aka the good prairie flowers) that should be present.  They suggested that conservation efforts may need to include reintroduction of perennial forb species that were killed by the herbicide application.

Some prairie hay meadows are unfortunately herbicided in the mistaken belief it will lead to more forage per dollar, but most groups including Kansas State University say that costs (herbicide and application) are not worth it economically and do not justify application.  Also, native plant enthusiasts and conservationists are also against mass herbicide use because it leads to a decrease in biodiversity by killing the perennial native plant species (especially the pretty prairie flowers) that are so rare.  This seems like another instance when the range management/agricultural point of view and the scientific/conservation point of view agree.

For example, "Forage Facts: Native Hay Meadow Management" from Kansas State University says: "Many perennial forbs improve hay quality and do not compete with grasses for moisture or nutrients. Harvesting by mid-July controls most undesirable annual weeds. Leaving hay bales in the meadow kills underlying vegetation and provides spots for annual weed invasion."

Of course, it is better if herbicide is never applied en-mass to native hay meadows and only used in restoration efforts to eliminate non-native and invasive plants and control woody invaders (like mesquite).  This would avoid the dramatic increase of annual forbs and also avoid the need for restoration of perennial forbs caused by the herbicide usage.

Citation: Hickman, K.R., Derner, J.D. 2007. Blackland tallgrass prairie vegetation dynamics following cessation of herbicide application. Rangeland Ecology and Management 60:186-190.


Texas Prairie Journal – New Issue!

Filed under: — Stormwind @ 8:57 pm

A new issue of the Texas Prairie Journal (formerly the Prairie Dog), the newsletter of the Native Prairies Association of Texas (NPAT), has been released!

All NPAT members should be receiving their issue in the mail very soon.

Featured articles in this issue include:
– Saving Texas Prairies
– NPAT Receives Tallgrass Prairie Grants
– Tandy Hills: Prairies & People – Oil & Gas

If you are not a member, join NPAT to receive future issues of the Texas Prairie Journal!  You may join online here, or print out a membership form and submit it via postal mail.

A huge thanks to Kirsti Harms, NPAT’s new editor whose incredible design skills have upgraded the newsletter!

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