Southeastern Wisconsin Invasive Species Consortium, Inc.

SEWISC

SEWISC E-News

The quarterly electronic newsletter of the
Southeastern Wisconsin Invasive Species Consortium

Partnering to Restore Native Savanna Habitat

Beginning this fall, SEWISC will work with partners to reestablish rare oak-savanna plant communities, ultimately benefitting wildlife which depend 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 will tackle 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.  These efforts will result in long-term benefits to local wildlife as well as increase local environmental stewardship activities.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker
(Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

Oak savanna, which once was found in the prairie-forest ecotone that included large parts of southern and western Wisconsin, is now perhaps the most threatened and rare vegetation community in the state. Savannas once covered over 5 million acres in southern Wisconsin. As the oak savanna disappeared so did the species of wildlife that use this unique habitat type. Savannas are diverse ecosystems that provide critical habitat to "species of greatest conservation need" (SCGN) as defined by Wisconsin's Wildlife Action Plan. Avian species that can directly benefit from our restoration efforts include Brown Thrasher, Field Sparrow, Red-headed Woodpecker, Blue-winged Warbler, and Black-billed Cuckoo. Other savannah/savannah-edge species not on the list of SGCN that may benefit include American Kestrel, Northern Flicker, Orchard Oriole, Northern Shrike, Common Yellowthroat, and Clay-colored Sparrow.

Located in the city of Franklin, the Franklin Savanna State Natural Area (part of the Milwaukee County Park System) is a rare, 92 acre oak savanna and is Milwaukee County‚Äôs last remaining savanna remnant.  A heavy invasion of common buckthorn and smaller pockets of invading garlic mustard, reed canary grass, and oriental bittersweet threaten the health of this site.  Non-native invasive species are out-competing the native grassland plants, causing reduced habitat for many native wildlife species.  The ephemeral wetlands on site are choked with reed canary grass which limits breeding sites for amphibians, one of the building blocks of any healthy ecosystem.

Eagle Centre 2010 Tornado Damage Invasive Shrub Control In The Franklin Savanna
 Eagle Centre 2010 Tornado Damage  Invasive Shrub Control In The Franklin Savanna

The Eagle Centre Prairie State Natural Area and Oak Savanna property is nestled within both the Village and the Town of Eagle.  A 2010 tornado damaged many 100 to 150 year-old oak trees, leaving open canopy and bare soil areas which have been invaded by buckthorn, honeysuckle, spotted knapweed and sweet clover.  Partially located within the Kettle Moraine Primary Environmental Corridor, the community contains 85 native plant species, of which 60 are native prairie/oak savanna species.  Of particular interest is the significant presence of kittentail (Besseya bullii), which is a state-threatened plant species. 

Our invasive species control efforts will be monitored 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 be introduced to the project areas until a good ground cover is obtained and prescribed burns will be used to maintain the savanna habitat.  Breeding bird surveys will be conducted annually for five years and at five-year intervals thereafter to document wildlife use.  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.

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