Conservation Log: An Update on Our Progress

 

Dear supporters of HeartLands Conservancy,

It’s time for part three of our Conservation Log, where we provide an update on the progress of our efforts during the Poag Restoration Project.

The Poag Sand Prairie is transforming right before our eyes.  Over the last few months, contractors have helped us prepare and seed the Poag Sand Prairie.  The project is far from complete, but it is cruising along at the anticipated pace.

In March and early May, the remaining cool season grasses and undesirable weedy species were removed using an herbicide treatment.  Removing these species is an important step as these vigorous growing weedy species can and will outcompete planted prairie seeds.  A tractor with a mounted boom sprayer was used to apply herbicide at the rate recommended on the herbicide label. 

While seeds from the weedy species likely still exist in the sandy soils, they will have to compete with existing native seeds in the seed bank and the newly planted seeds.  The receptive seed bed is extremely evident in the before and after pictures.

In late May, an air flow seeder was used to plant a short grass prairie seed mix at a minimal seeding rate.  The air flow seeder suspends various sizes of prairie plant seeds in a column of air and distributes the seeds evenly across the planting area.  The short grass prairie mix was selected because it was a commercially available seed mix with species that can persist in dry, sandy soils.  Further, the seeding was performed at a low rate (less seeds per acre) to allow space for seeds from remnant sand prairie species still persisting in soil to sprout and hopefully thrive. 

In early June, HLC staff and volunteers began removing some of the non-native invasive trees, specifically Bradford pears, located on the property.  To help reduce the messy appearance of a downed tree, volunteers help construct a wattle fence that will provide habitat for wildlife and delineate the boundary of the parking area.  As the leaves from the down tree fall off the limbs, the wattle fence will have a woody, rustic appearance that will blend into the landscape. 

Over the summer and into the fall and winter months, HLC staff and volunteers will continue to monitor the progress of the project.  An occasional walk through the prairie will help identify non-native invasive species that need to be removed and the establishment of the species planted.  Also, Bradford pears, bush honeysuckle, Tree-of-Heaven, and Siberian elm will gradually be dropped and removed from the property.

Now, and possibly most importantly, we will have to exercise some patience.  The restoration process is reversing 150 years of land use and will take several years.  Persistent and consistent stewardship of the land will help guide the transformation process and ensure the project’s success.  Right now at Poag Sand Prairie, the landscape looks barren and lifeless, but if you look and listen you may notice the bloom of prickly pear cactus or hear the distinct call of northern bobwhites.

Stay tuned for more updates, and as always, thank you for your continued support.

Science,

Eric Wright
Land Conservation Manager, HeartLands Conservancy

The Poag Sand Prairie Restoration Project was paid for in part by the Edwardsville Community Foundation Grant. Thank you for your generosity and commitment to preserving our natural spaces!