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Last updated:

October 6, 2000

Prairie Grass Stand Undergoing Restoration at UW-RF

Some three acres of native prairie grasses at UW-River Falls are receiving extensive preservation efforts to ensure their educational and esthetic values.

The prairie, which bisects the south end of campus along an old railroad right of way, will be used as an educational resource, teaching tool, and enjoyable place for the community to bike through.

University students will have the opportunity to learn and identify many of the plants in the prairie. It could also be an advantage to high school students who will travel the path to a new River Falls high school under construction on nearby Cemetery Road. The school, which is scheduled to open in fall 2001, could also involve the plot into into high school classes, as well.

UW-RF resource management Professors Mike Kaltenberg and Eric Sanden have integrated prairie management activities of burning and tree removal into their courses.

Ferriss noted, "The project is not a restoration but a preservation, we are trying to protect and enhance the prairie through planned management."

There is a very large interest group that is working on the preservation.

The diverse group consists of alumni, faculty, students, and community members. The group got started late last spring and started restoration in early summer. The existing prairies were burned this past summer and seeds were collected from the remnants and replanted.

Ferriss, who also serves as assistant dean in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, said, that campus development plans are attuned to the sensitivity to the plot and commited to its long-term survival.

Although no funding is available for the project, it's not lacking in volunteers who have devoted their time to help with the burning, pulling weeds and chopping trees. The prairie project has received a grant from the UW-RF collaborative research, scholarly and creative activity to inventory the plants in the prairie.

Sophomore Lynn Peterson, a horticulture major from Pepin Wis, is inventorying the plant species and assessing the population size of each species.

Some 150 different vegetation species in the area, which is a broad diversity compared to other prairies. Among some of the native prairie grasses that have been identified are needle grass, love grass, Indian grass, big bluestem, little bluestem, and panic grass. Wild flowers remnants discovered contain the monarda, blazing star, goldenrod, prairie cone flower, bird's foot violet, prairie smoke, evening primrose, prairie rose, yarrow, hoary puccoon, heath aster, flowering spurge, western sunflower, and the round-headed clover.

According to Ferriss, prairie sections will be burned periodically to destroy invasive woody and weedy plant species.. The fires do not harm the native plants, which typically have deeper root systems.

Most prairie grasses are a natural protection and food source for wildlife throughout the winter. Wildlife habitat will consist of insects, butterflies and some small rodents.

For more information about the preservation interest group, contact Ferriss at 715/425-3345

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