Boots On The Ground Conservation


  • Saving Pollinators One Thistle at a Time

    Pollinator populations are in trouble for a lot of reasons. Loss and degradation of habitat, pesticides, and disease are all major contributors.  However, at least in the Central United States, much of the pollinator decline can be tied to spiny pink/purple-flowered plants and the way humans react to them.

    Tall thistle, a native annual wildflower, is a big favorite among pollinator insects.

    Tall thistle (Cirsium altissimum) a native wildflower, is a big favorite among pollinator insects. Unfortunately, it is seen by many people as a weed that needs to be eliminated.

  • And so it begins...

    The Department of the Interior today announced the release of a National Seed Strategy for rehabilitation and restoration to help foster resilient and healthy landscapes. The Strategy is meant to guide ecological restoration across major landscapes.

    “Having the right seed in the right place at the right time makes a major difference in the health of our landscapes,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “This is a collaborative effort to ensure that we’re taking a landscape level approach [to ecological restoration].”

    The website is here     , the plan document is here, and the press release is here

  • Prairie Mornings

    There are many benefits of being a morning person.  For example, I see a lot of sunrises – even in the summer when the sun comes up well before most people are awake.

    Sunrise in sand prairie.  TNC Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

    Prairie sunflower (Helianthus pauciflorus)

  • Don't Touch This Plant

    File:Herkulesstaude fg01.jpg

    Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is truely dangerous. The sap on its leaves, roots, flower heads, seeds and stem can cause blistering and scars if they touch bare skin. And if it gets in your eyes, it can cause permanent blindness. Also, if you come into contact with the plant, you may not know it since it can take up to 48 hours for the reaction to occur.

    If you find this plant, inform your county Weed Commissioner...and send us an email so we can follow up on your report. You can read more here.

  • Gene Drive Technology

    A powerful new technique for generating “supercharged” genetically modified organisms that can spread rapidly in the wild has caused alarm among scientists who fear that it may be misused, accidentally or deliberately, and cause a health emergency or environmental disaster.

    The development of so-called “gene drive” technology promises to revolutionise medicine and agriculture because it can in theory stop the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses, such as malaria and yellow fever, as well as eliminate crop pests and invasive species such as rats and cane toads.

    “They have tremendous potential to address global problems in health, agriculture and conservation but their capacity to alter wild populations outside the laboratory demands caution,” the scientists say.

    The researchers have drawn up a minimum set of safety rules to protect against laboratory escapes and have called for a public debate on the potential benefits as well as risks of a technology that allows geneticists to rapidly accelerate the inheritance of GM traits throughout a population within just a few generations. Read more here and here.

  • Designer Mixes

    A big topic of conversation at this year’s Grassland Restoration Network (GRN) workshop had to do with designing seed mixes to combat potential invasive plant problems.  When converting cropland to prairie vegetation, the first few years of establishment are sometimes a race for dominance between prairie plants and invasives.  Once a strong native plant community becomes established, it is more difficult (but still possible) for invasive plants to become dominant, so those first few seasons are critically important.  Over the years, a number of people have tried using extra high seeding rates of various native plants to see if those natives could help stave off invaders.  In an ideal scenario, a high abundance of some showy wildflower would outcompete invasive plants but allow other native plants to establish.  Nice, right?  Lots of pretty flowers during establishment, no invasive species to worry about, and a nice diverse prairie community in the long run.

    Black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia hirta) in restored prairie - TNC Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

    Black-eyed Susan is a species that has shown some promise as a species that can compete against invasives but still allow the establishment of a diverse plant community around it.

  • Milkweed Pollination

    Common milkweed.  The Nature Conservancy's Bluestem Prairie - Minnesota.

    Common milkweed flower buds can be just as attractive as the open flowers…

    Bee on milkweed.  TNC Bluestem Prairie, Minnesota.

    This bee spent the night on a milkweed leaf and wasn’t quite warm and dry enough to fly off when I spotted it.  If you look carefully, you can see pollinia stuck on two (maybe three?) of its feet.  If you’re not familiar with the fascinating (and unlikely) story of how milkweed is pollinated, you can learn more here.

  • The 2015 Grassland Restoration Network Workshop

    Leadplant and wildflowers.  TNC Bluestem Prairie, Minnesota.

    Bluestem Prairie near Glyndon, Minnesota.

    Lesson #1: It’s not the seed harvest or planting that limits our capacity to do good restoration work, it’s the management of invasives after planting.

    There are basically two ways the issue manifests itself...

  • Canada to protect prairie under Endangered Ecosystems Act

    Manitoba's NDP government is moving to protect five animal and plant species and two ecosystems in the province by designating them as threatened or endangered.

    The olive-sided flycatcher, the little brown bat, the northern long-eared bat, the Gastony's cliffbrake and the Canada warbler will be declared threatened or endangered under regulatory amendments to the Endangered Species and Ecosystems Act.

    The two ecosystems being designated are tall grass prairie — which hosts a vast array of grasses, flowers and wildlife — and alvar, a plant community of thin soil over limestone in the Interlake region where a variety of birds, reptiles, mammals and insects live.

    The government says Manitoba will be the first province in Canada to designate ecosystems as endangered. “By protecting ecosystems we protect the habitat for lots of rare and threatened species that occur in those places.," says University of Winnipeg bat researcher Craig Willis.

    Read more in the Winnipeg Free Press.

  • Photo of the Week – July 2, 2015

    Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)  The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

    Asclepias syriaca (field milkweed)