The restoration, management and enhancement of prairie habitat is year-round work for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
“We tend to have very specific questions about what we do for the prairies each season, and we like to step back and describe how the different types of restoration and improvement projects we do fit into. our overall strategy, ”DNR Prairie Habitat Supervisor, Greg Hoch, said.
During the winter months, contractors remove trees that can reduce the value of grasslands to grassland birds. In the spring, MNR personnel carry out prescribed burns. In the fall, contractors help MNR staff collect seeds for next spring’s restoration projects.
Two important tools for grassland management in midsummer are haymaking and grazing.
“Haymaking and grazing both simulate the herds of bison and elk that historically grazed the prairie. They can increase plant diversity and insect abundance. The shorter grasses create habitats where it is easy for young pheasants and other birds to feed on grasshoppers and other insects, ”Hoch said.
Only a small portion of a WMA is mowed each year. This creates a brood rearing habitat but still leaves plenty of fall and winter cover.
“Haying can also help create fire breaks for next spring’s prescribed fire season. When ranchers mow these areas, it saves MNR staff time and money, ”Hoch said.
If local ranchers are interested in forage, they can contact MNR area wildlife managers. These managers will determine if any wildlife management areas in their area would benefit from haymaking or grazing. If there is a WMA that would benefit, managers will identify the acres in the WMAs and when to hay. Cattle ranchers can find contact information for area wildlife managers on the Conservation Grazing Map on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website: https://www.mda.state.mn.us/conservation- grazing-map.
“Managed haymaking and grazing can improve the quality of wildlife habitat and demonstrate the value of grasslands to the agricultural economy and local communities,” said Dave Olfelt, Director of the Fisheries and Conservation Division. MNR wildlife. “We know we can help local ranchers and increase support for conservation. At the same time, they can help us improve grassland habitat for wildlife and pollinators. Haying and grazing in the right place at the right time benefits both wildlife and agriculture.
Grasslands are important for a number of reasons in the farmland region of Minnesota. They provide habitat for wildlife and pollinators. They also sequester and store carbon, capture potential flood water, filter water and improve groundwater recharge. And they support many types of recreation near home.
MNR region wildlife managers work statewide to help manage game populations, maintain and enhance habitat, and oversee more than 1,400 WMAs. Anyone can find out more about the work of MNR wildlife staff in their area on the MNR website.