Restoring Native Prairie to Enhance Habitat for Birds and Other Wildlife
“I can sit on the porch before my door and see miles of the most beautiful prairie interwoven with groves of timber, surpassing, in my mind, the beauties of the sea. Think of seeing a tract of land on a slight incline covered with flowers and rich meadow grass for 12 to 20 miles.” - John Brooke, an early settler in the tallgrass prairies of Texas, 1849
Not so long ago, tall-grass prairies blanketed enormous sections of the central and southern United States. Birds and other species that called the prairies home included Wild Turkey, Northern Bobwhite, Grasshopper Sparrow, Gulf Coast hog-nosed skunks, and many more species. Today, along with the prairie itself, those species are struggling to survive. Out of the original 20 million acres of Texas tallgrass prairie, less than one percent now remains due to suburban sprawl, plowing for row-crop agriculture, and overgrazing.
With their Innovation Grant, Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Organization and its partners enlisted community volunteers, students, and local Scout troops to remove invasive plant species in a 40-acre tract and replaced them with native grasses and wildflowers, creating a prairie in a public park just west of Austin. In time, the pocket of prairie will doubtless become a haven for wildlife that depends on native grasslands.
With more work like this, perhaps one day Austin residents will be inspired by the same view that John Brooke fell in love with in the 1840s.