We are incredibly lucky to live in a region rich in agriculture—from orchards to golden wheat fields. But what happens when those fields can no longer be farmed? Invasive weeds and non-native grasses can move in, choking out native plants that sustain wildlife. The Land Trust has started a large scale restoration at the Horse Lake Reserve to convert former wheat fields back into diverse shrub-steppe habitat.
The fields are but a small part of the Reserve’s quality habitat, but they are essential to attracting and sustaining native plants and animals. Native habitats are home to plants that begin flowering as snows melts and continue through the first frosts of fall. This diversity provides year-long food and shelter that is unmatched by the non-native grasses and weeds that crowd the old fields.
Work began in the spring of 2011 by BFI Native Seeds that will continue through the next several years:
- Remove highly competitive exotic plants, including noxious weeds
- Prepare a seedbed and plant locally collected native grasses
- Continue to control non-native, invading weeds
- Plant locally collected native wildflowers
- Monitor progress and fix problems
For all of you who love to be out on the land, this is great news, even though in the short term the fields will look quite different—maybe even a little messy. But in the long term, shrub-steppe restoration can greatly increase the abundance and diversity of songbirds, small mammals, pollinating insects and wildflowers: those things we love to see and hear. It can also improve winter habitat for mule deer that migrate to the foothills in early winter and remain into spring. The restoration is a homecoming of sorts for the wildflowers, songbirds, and mammals who once thrived in our foothills.
This project is funded with grants from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service and The Nature Conservancy.