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Partnering to Restore Native Savanna Habitat

During the past two years, SEWISC was given the opportunity to work with partners to reestablish rare oak-savanna plant communities, ultimately benefitting wildlife which depends on that habitat.  With funding from the James E. Dutton Foundation, Inc., the Milwaukee County Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture and the Waukesha County Land Conservancy, we tackled two high priority invasive plant infestations located in the Franklin Savanna State Natural Area and in the Eagle Centre Prairie State Natural Area/Oak Savanna Restoration Area.

These restoration efforts were executed to provide long-term benefits to local wildlife as well as increase local environmental stewardship activities. Initial management included cutting and chemical stump treatment of invasive shrub understory, and mowing. Select areas of savanna were burned and over-seeded with native prairie seed. 32 volunteers donated their time throughout project by preparing the sites for burning, cutting, piling and stump-treating invasive shrub species, and collecting native plant seed that was planted in the restoration areas.

Rare plant species such as kitten's-tails, cream gentian, prairie blazing star, bird's foot violet, and shooting stars have reappeared in the treatment areas. Birds that can directly benefit from our restoration efforts include Brown Thrasher, Field Sparrow, Red- headed Woodpecker, Blue-winged Warbler, Black-billed Cuckoo, American Kestrel, Northern Flicker, Orchard Oriole, Northern Shrike, Common Yellowthroat, and Clay-colored Sparrow.

Our invasive species control efforts will be monitored in both savanna restoration sites on an annual basis for four years and at five year intervals thereafter.  Measures will be taken as needed for at least 10-12 years to further control buckthorn, honeysuckle and other invasive species as they appear.  Locally collected seeds of native grasses and wildflowers will continue to be introduced to the project areas until a good ground cover is obtained and prescribed burns will be used as necessary to maintain the savanna habitat.  Breeding bird surveys will be conducted annually for five years and at five-year intervals thereafter to document use of the newly restored habitat.

This long-term management plan will be implemented by volunteer and professional land stewards, demonstrating the efficacy of linking education, outreach and on-the-ground restoration.  A heartfelt thank you is sent by all partners to the James E. Dutton Foundation for providing crucial funds to improve and preserve our natural resources, restore habitat for wildlife and provide educational stewardship opportunities for our southeastern Wisconsin residents and visitors.