Many of us enjoy strolling through a park-like setting with scattered trees and grassy ground vegetation. This seems to be a common human predilection. Savannas are ecosystems with plant communities consisting of open-grown scattered trees with a grass understory. We are fortunate to live in an area where there are some remaining savanna areas to visit. Oak savanna once covered about 30 million acres in the Midwest. Nearly all the oak savanna area has been lost to agriculture, fire suppression and over-grazing. Oak savannas are among the world’s most threatened ecosystems. Savannas were communities bordered by prairies to the west and deciduous hardwood forest to the east. They were maintained by frequent fires and grazing by bison, deer and elk. Oaks were the dominant trees. The St. Croix Valley Chapter of The Prairie Enthusiasts, Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, Wisconsin DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and private landowners have been working together for years to protect and restore oak savanna remnants in this area. They can be found at Willow River and Kinnickinnic State Parks, DNR wildlife management areas, USFWS Waterfowl Production Areas, Blueberry Hill on the St. Croix River bluff south of Bayport, Minn., Foster Cemetery and along Rocky Branch in River Falls. The St. Croix Valley Chapter of The Prairie Enthusiasts has also been restoring oak savanna areas on some strategically located private properties. Restoring an oak savanna isn’t easy. It is often a long and costly process. It involves logging to open the tree canopy, cutting undesirable brush and continuous maintenance which includes controlled burning to allow native prairie grasses and forbs to again become the dominant ground vegetation. The Prairie Enthusiasts have been working hard to restore a remnant oak savanna at the Foster Conservation Reserve in River Falls. It has been a real challenge to suppress the highly invasive common buckthorn there but native grasses and forb communities are making a strong comeback. The Prairie Enthusiasts have recently received a grant of $8,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. The funds will be used to hire a contractor to complete logging and brush removal on some of the more difficult-to-work parts of the Foster Conservation Reserve. Target trees and brush to be removed include boxelder and common buckthorn. Additional savanna restoration work is scheduled to be completed on another strategically located private property near River Falls with remnant oak savanna.  The funds will also be used to purchase herbicide to treat the invasive common buckthorn. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partners with private landowners to improve fish and wildlife habitat on their lands. More than 90 percent of land in the Midwest is in private ownership; therefore, public-private partnerships are essential to the future of conservation. The future of fish and wildlife in this region depends on private landowners like you. Providing more high quality habitat not only helps wildlife. By contributing to a healthy landscape you create a conservation legacy to pass The Partners for Fish and Wildlife program teams up with private conservation organizations, state and federal agencies and Native American tribes. Together, with the landowner, these partnerships share funding, materials, equipment, labor and expertise to restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat. You can learn more about this program at www.fws.gov/midwest/partners/ . To see a savanna restoration in progress, go to the south end of Apollo Road in River Falls. Follow the path along fence around the waste treatment plant and walk up the hill to the Foster Conservation Reserve. Note the gnarly bur oaks and the native grasses and forbs. Enjoy the long view down the Kinnickinnic River Valley.   --Dan Wilcox, outdoor columnist

  Please send any comments and suggestions for this column to me at rfjsports@rivertowns.net.Many of us enjoy strolling through a park-like setting with scattered trees and grassy ground vegetation. This seems to be a common human predilection. Savannas are ecosystems with plant communities consisting of open-grown scattered trees with a grass understory.We are fortunate to live in an area where there are some remaining savanna areas to visit. Oak savanna once covered about 30 million acres in the Midwest. Nearly all the oak savanna area has been lost to agriculture, fire suppression and over-grazing. Oak savannas are among the world’s most threatened ecosystems.Savannas were communities bordered by prairies to the west and deciduous hardwood forest to the east. They were maintained by frequent fires and grazing by bison, deer and elk. Oaks were the dominant trees.The St. Croix Valley Chapter of The Prairie Enthusiasts, Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, Wisconsin DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and private landowners have been working together for years to protect and restore oak savanna remnants in this area. They can be found at Willow River and Kinnickinnic State Parks, DNR wildlife management areas, USFWS Waterfowl Production Areas, Blueberry Hill on the St. Croix River bluff south of Bayport, Minn., Foster Cemetery and along Rocky Branch in River Falls. The St. Croix Valley Chapter of The Prairie Enthusiasts has also been restoring oak savanna areas on some strategically located private properties.Restoring an oak savanna isn’t easy. It is often a long and costly process. It involves logging to open the tree canopy, cutting undesirable brush and continuous maintenance which includes controlled burning to allow native prairie grasses and forbs to again become the dominant ground vegetation.The Prairie Enthusiasts have been working hard to restore a remnant oak savanna at the Foster Conservation Reserve in River Falls. It has been a real challenge to suppress the highly invasive common buckthorn there but native grasses and forb communities are making a strong comeback.The Prairie Enthusiasts have recently received a grant of $8,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. The funds will be used to hire a contractor to complete logging and brush removal on some of the more difficult-to-work parts of the Foster Conservation Reserve. Target trees and brush to be removed include boxelder and common buckthorn.Additional savanna restoration work is scheduled to be completed on another strategically located private property near River Falls with remnant oak savanna.  The funds will also be used to purchase herbicide to treat the invasive common buckthorn.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partners with private landowners to improve fish and wildlife habitat on their lands. More than 90 percent of land in the Midwest is in private ownership; therefore, public-private partnerships are essential to the future of conservation.The future of fish and wildlife in this region depends on private landowners like you. Providing more high quality habitat not only helps wildlife. By contributing to a healthy landscape you create a conservation legacy to passThe Partners for Fish and Wildlife program teams up with private conservation organizations, state and federal agencies and Native American tribes. Together, with the landowner, these partnerships share funding, materials, equipment, labor and expertise to restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat. You can learn more about this program at www.fws.gov/midwest/partners/ .To see a savanna restoration in progress, go to the south end of Apollo Road in River Falls. Follow the path along fence around the waste treatment plant and walk up the hill to the Foster Conservation Reserve. Note the gnarly bur oaks and the native grasses and forbs. Enjoy the long view down the Kinnickinnic River Valley. --Dan Wilcox, outdoor columnist

 Please send any comments and suggestions for this column to me at rfjsports@rivertowns.net.

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