Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Little house on what prairie?

Post contributed by Meredith from Conservation Corps Youth Outdoors Crew 1:

This week, two of the Conservation Corps, young adult crews have been enjoying some crisp and sunny fall days working at Highwood Nature Preserve located in south east Saint Paul. Highwood is a unique addition to the city’s outdoor recreation opportunities and is a favorite place of many of the crew members.  Perched on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and Twin Cities skylines, Highwood is home to a unique remnant prairie. This beautiful pocket of prairie serves as a reminder of what the southwestern third of the state looked like before European settlement.
On the job at Highwood.

Grasslands and other prairie ecosystems like the one found at Highwood are highly threatened both in Minnesota and worldwide.  In Minnesota nearly 18 million acres of prairie covered the state prior to European settlement.  Today, less that one percent of Minnesota's native prairies remain.  Prairie ecosystems have nutrient rich soil and fertile grasses that were readily plowed under and converted to agricultural use by European settlers in the mid-1800s.  Today fire suppression, invasive species, energy development and conversion to other land use threatens our remaining prairies.

They sure enjoy what they do!
For information on what actions are being taken in the state to preserve these ecosystems please visit the Nature Conservancy and the Northern Tallgrass Prairie project websites.  
For information on Prairie conservation on your own land please see the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' publication "Going Native, A prairie restoration handbook for Minnesota landowners".

Friday, October 11, 2013

These leaves, they are a'changin...

Post contributed by David from Conservation Corps Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

Crews hard at work.
This week, crews began donning sweaters as the fall chill sets in. Work continues with the Young Adult and Youth Outdoors Crews. Along with help from a crew from Iowa, we have returned to the Phalen Golf Course water hazards this week to supplement plants that may not have made it through the dry summer. The hot dry conditions, along with a large number of geese, had really taken their toll on the new plants. Although we installed fences to keep the geese from mucking up our projects, some mallards still come and go. At one of the ponds, there are at least two flocks of ducklings that we watched grow all summer. Now they are losing their fuzzy gray plumage to make way for bright green heads and brown spots. Soon these families will join others for their migration south.

Did you know that Saint Paul is an Urban Bird Treaty City?  In partnership with Minneapolis and Audubon Minnesota, the City of Saint Paul works to create and improve bird habitat, and increase awereness of the importance of migratory birds.

Other birds are also gathering to make the winter journey, including the flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers who swarmed Crosby Farm Regional Park this spring. They, like the young mallards, have also donned new fall colors. If you make your way to Crosby to catch a glimpse of the Warblers, you should also check out the new berm and drainage basin. This area will act like a rain garden, filtering the water run off from the parking lot before it reaches the river. 
Young plants at Phalen Golf Course.

In other news, we continue to fight the burdock at Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom. By cutting it all down, we hope to prevent the plants from dropping seeds and starting new growth all over again next year.  Also, we are sweeping the south edge of Como Lake to remove invasive plant species and volunteer trees that interfere with the shoreline prairie restoration. Volunteer trees are those that are seeded by the already existing trees in the area.