We are nearing the end of another year which is a nice time to look back and reflect on some of the accomplishments of Friends of the Blufflands. Although some of what we have done this year may not be easily seen now and its effects won’t be able to be fully appreciated for years or even decades to come, we can still get a glimpse of our work from a few year-to-year pictures, and some before and after pictures. Note however that the pictures don’t tell the whole story in the macro or micro context. They cut off some of the work that has been done on the lower edges of the bluff prairies that is extending the natural prairie and restoring savanna habitat. They also don’t fully show the fine detail of the removal of the small woody plants from the bluff prairie that if left alone would eventually grow large enough to adversely affect the prairie. So here are some examples:
This is Lookout Prairie about 2-3 years ago. Notice all the small trees and brush especially near the top where people like to sit and enjoy the view.
The next picture is of Lookout Prairie from December, 2021. There has been a lot of clearing of the trees and brush. Easily evident is the clearing of the top lookout area. What is hard to appreciate is the elimination of the very small invasive buckthorn and sumac in the prairie itself and the clearing of invasive plants from the base of the prairie.
Zoerb Prairie has also been undergoing a transformation. I just have one year comparisons to make but it is gradually being restored to a more natural prairie with a savanna gradient on the edges. Here is December, 2020 followed by December, 2021:
You can see in the above photo that the edges of the prairie have been opened up into the woods. This area has now been seeded with seed collected from the intact prairie, (see previous blog “Seeding the Prairie” by Jon Rigden).
Other examples of smaller scale work include removing invasive species to open up patches on little known Log Prairie in Hixon Forest. Here are some before and after pictures:
The Mathy Bluff prairie is the next bluff north of Miller Bluff. It was once an extensive hill prairie. With a great amount of help from a large work event involving a total of 10 people from the Mississippi Valley Conservancy, the DNR, and Friends of the Blufflands a large amount of brush was cleared last winter from the bluff. Here are pictures of the Mathy Bluff prairie. The first one is taken from Miller Bluff looking north. The second picture is from a work outing this summer. The volunteers are cutting sumac off the prairie. You can see some of the brush piles from previous extensive work done to clear brush from this important and historic remnant prairie.
Wintertime is frequently spent burning much of the brush piles cut during the summer.
These are just some of our activities. With over 1500 volunteer hours so far in 2021 our next official Annual Report, last done in August 2021 and available on this website, will chronicle many others, too.
I hope all of you had a happy and healthy 2021. We hope to see you in 2022 enjoying our prairies and forests whether it is doing restoration work or just restoring yourself!