One of the most gratifying parts of my career has been the opportunity to design and carry out restoration work – especially taking cropfields, adding wetlands to them, and then planting them with diverse seed mixes. It’s really hard to encapsulate the joy, energy and pride that comes from that work.
I could make squiggly lines across a site with flags and big equipment would come in and turn those into wetland sloughs. I could walk around with buckets strapped to my waist and grab seeds from plants and at least some of those seeds would germinate and establish diverse plant communities. Most importantly, I could then spot the same bees, grasshoppers, small mammals, ants, and birds in those restored sites as could see in the adjacent unplowed prairies, helping me feel like I’d accomplished the primary goal: stitching fragmented grasslands back together.
Since I’ve moved out of the role of land steward for the Platte River Prairies, I’ve gotten to watch and help other people experience those same emotions. This time around, it’s Cody Miller, our Preserve Manager, who is directing the latest restoration project. My jobs are to give ‘old man advice’, when asked, and to cheer everyone on from the sidelines. …And to take photos, which is why today’s post is another one (two in a week!!) full of people photos, instead of insects, flowers, or other small things. Don’t worry, I’ve got a couple of old standards coming soon.
This 50 acre site will be very weedy for a few years, but by year 3, 4, or 5 it should be dominated by the plants we harvested and seeded. Once everything is established, Cody will start using fire and grazing to manage for habitat structure and help encourage as many animals as possible to colonize the restoration from adjacent prairies. He’ll also get to experience the wonder of walking around a site he turned from bare ground into prairie and wetlands. I can’t wait to watch him do it.
Many thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited, and Nebraska Game and Parks for helping to fund this project.