Volunteers spent three hours Saturday afternoon helping to restore a section of land at Eisenhower State Park to Blackland Prairie. Blackland Prairie is the most endangered habitat in Texas and one of the most endangered in North America, with less than 1 percent remaining.
Eisenhower State Park Ranger Kate Saling explained even though the section of land is small, restoring it is important for the preservation of native plants, grasses and flowers.
“We’re taking out a lot of the young sapling trees that have been growing in,” Saling said. “Before this, there were natural processes that would preserve it as prairie land. The biggest thing was fire but we stopped doing fire. We obviously don’t want wildfires going through our camp grounds. So, today we have to do controlled things like using loppers and pruners or even chain saws to restore this habitat back to prairie.”
Cheryl Anderson with the Red River Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists said she believes events of this nature are important not only for the ecosystem but also for helping to educate youth on nature.
“We volunteer to help teach more about native plants and animals and ecology and how wetlands and ecosystems and how it all ties in to keep everything working,” Anderson said. “We are trying to pass it down to children and do programs and volunteer and talk to different groups.”
Daniel Taylor and Ezekiel Munoz were with their Boy Scout Troop’s Assistant Scout Master Joe Munoz in order to earn their required conservation hours. The boys said they were having fun and learning more about nature.
Saling explained it is important to have a diversity of different plant species within the park.
“All the trees that we are taking out today are, of course, in other parts of the park,” Saling said. “We want a balance between the different species that we have. It supports a lot of the birds need the seeds produced by the grasses to eat and the flowers. We have a lot of important species out here.”
One important species is a plant called False Indigo. A caterpillar from a potentially endangered butterfly species, the Frosted Elfin, eats the plant. Saling explained this makes the plant especially important.
According to Saling, another important plant to preserve is the Compass Plant. This plant produces seeds for birds to eat. Ground nesting birds also need the grasses to make and hide their nests.
“We haven’t seen Bobwhite Quail out here for quite a while,” Saling said. “Hopefully, by restoring these sites we’ll see more of them.”