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Cardinal Valley Prairie/Wetlands Restoration Project
The habitat projects I am involved with are really two fold. There is the upland portions, where we are doing native prairie restoration work on, and then there is the wetland projects, where we will do wetland restoration using native plants.
The upland prairie restoration work has several objectives, first and foremost being to provide better habitat for wildlife. We are not just talking about the larger animals here either, such as deer, coyotes, rabbits, etc. We are also interested in the insects, small grassland dependent birds, amphibians and reptiles, along with those life forms living in the soil, such as worms, nematodes, bacteria, etc. These restorations will also protect the soil from eroding, while also improving absorption of water during rain events, helping to maintain ground water levels.
I mentioned that all wildlife is targeted for improvement of habitat, but there is also an emphasis on providing better monarch butterfly habitat as well. This involves providing a diversity of plants that are considered food sources by this species, both from a nectar and larvae feeding source. Milkweed species are an important component of this objective, so getting more milkweed species on these restoration sites is an important goal. Other species of insects will benefit as well, so it is a win-win scenario for many species! Most of us don’t have any idea of how important a lot of these native insects are, whether it be from pollination, or from controlling other pest species.
The wetland areas will also be managed from a native vegetation standpoint, being seeded, or planted, with native wetland species. The main goal of the wetlands is to have plants that remove a little more zinc from the contaminated water that is common around Webb City, but an important secondary goal is to provide wetland habitat for primarily wetland dependent bird species.
Currently, I have been managing around 100 acres that was previously planted by the EPA upon completion of the cleanup. We have tried to enhance the native vegetation that was on these sites, while trying to eliminate, or at least minimize, the unwanted (invasive) vegetation that was very prevalent on most sites. There are several hundred more acres to be planted in the near future, but those won’t be completed until the composting process is up and going. The finished product from the composting of wood chips, cattle manure, and
bio-solids from the treatment plant will be applied to the areas that are yet to be planted, to act as a topsoil, which will then be planted to the native grass and forb mixtures.
The long range plan, and I have no idea of what time frame is going to be involved in this, is to have walking trails going around and through much of these upland and wetland restoration sites, so the public can have opportunities to bird watch, see native forbs (wildflowers) blooming, or simply have a place to walk, or run, or possibly even ride a bicycle.
Webb City, Missouri