Home Range: Restoring Native Prairies, Yard by Yard
May 31, 2013 12:04PM
From Canada south to Texas and from Indiana west to Colorado, nearly 600,000 square miles of grassland once contributed to this continent’s complex ecosystem, supporting a diverse and teeming web of life. Today, less than 1 percent remains intact.
The good news is that farmers and residents have been making inroads toward restoring this native landscape, converting suburban yards and rural fields to expanses of tall grass and fallow pastures that welcome native species. Government agencies and conservation groups, aided by volunteers, have undertaken numerous restoration projects across U.S. and Canadian prairieland, some of them comprising thousands of acres.
The initial investment in time and money starts with removal of invasive or even cultivated species and the planting of native grasses. Substantial benefits include low-maintenance ecosystems that require less water and no fertilizer while supporting diverse wildflowers and wildlife.
But it’s not as simple as planting a few seeds. In semi-rural and more urban areas, neighbors and zoning laws don’t always see eye-to-eye with these “new pioneers”, especially in deed-restricted communities. Concern over perceived property value deterioration and a potential influx of vermin sometimes wins the day. Farmers have been known to plow under an entire restoration project upon news of rising grain prices due to the ethanol industry, in order to cultivate it for financial gain. It is evident that social and economic policies must support the effort if it is to succeed.
Source: Yale Environment 360