URBANA A new strategy to manage invasive species and achieve broader conservation goals is being tested in the Grand River Grasslands, an area within the North American tallgrass prairie ecoregion. A University of Illinois researcher along with his colleagues at Iowa State and Oklahoma State Universities enlisted private landowners in a grassroots community-building effort to establish a more diverse landscape for native wildlife.
The Grand River Grasslands has three main problems that pose challenges to conservation efforts: invasive juniper trees, tall fescue, and heavy grazing of cattle. U of I ecologist Jim Miller and his team developed a new model for conservation that begins by raising landowners' awareness of these problems and providing strategies, such as moderate livestock grazing and regularly scheduled controlled burns. Miller and his team identified landowners who are interested in trying something different -- who will, in turn, transfer their newfound knowledge and understanding to larger groups of people in the region.
"We conducted a survey and learned that people recognize burning as a legitimate management tool but don't have experience with it," Miller said. "Most of the landowners have never participated in a controlled burn, so we've essentially lost a fire culture in much of that part of the country."
Miller's team invited landowners to hands-on educational field days at nearby nature reserves to show them how grazing and burning techniques work. They got experience with drip torches and learned how to work with the wind and moisture levels.
"We followed that up with a burn at one of the landowner's savannahs that he was trying to restore," Miller said. "It went really well and was a key step for us in our process because now we're getting landowners to try these new strategies on their own properties."
Miller said the next step in the model is to encourage the landowners to champion t
|Contact: Debra Levey Larson|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences