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Washington

Writing the Book on Prairie Conservation

"This volume is going to guide our work for years to come."

—David Wilderman, Department of Natural Resources ecologist

Of the prairie and oak woodlands that once flourished in Puget Sound, only a scant 3 percent remains. Grasslands are among the least protected and most threatened habitat types on Earth.

Thanks to generous donor support, the Nature Conservancy has helped to develop a sophisticated collaborative working group, the Cascadia Prairie-Oak Partnership, to share prairie conservation efforts throughout Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. 

Now, all that the partnership members have learned over 20 years and uncounted acres of restoration has been collected into one volume. The spring issue of Northwest Science, the peer-reviewed journal of the Northwest Scientific Association, represents the most up-to-date information for the prairie-oak system in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.

“This publication provides us with long-needed, up-to-date information that relates directly to our on-the-ground conservation and restoration efforts. This volume is going to guide our work for years to come,” said David Wilderman, a Department of Natural Resources ecologist who manages restoration at Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve.

A New Chapter

This milestone occurs at a time of new beginnings on the prairies. The Conservancy has transferred its South Sound prairie program to the Center for Natural Land Management, a nonprofit that shares its values of conservation.

The decision was a strategic one. As the Conservancy continues to evolve and seeks to solve new conservation challenges, it needs to make choices about how to use our limited resources.

“By transferring the South Sound program to the Center for Natural Land Management, we can ensure that the important work of protecting and restoring this special landscape will continue,” Washington Conservancy Director Karen Anderson said.

The core of the program—preserving and restoring rare habitats and species--will stay the same as CNLM takes the reins this summer. And Conservancy staff in will continue to lead conservation work they started nearly two decades ago.  

Go Deeper: Conservation Success

The bottom line of all this research compiled in Northwest Science is that conservation efforts are showing considerable successes in many areas, but they require a good understanding of natural history, solid scientific studies, and perseverance with a long-term commitment.

For example, conservationists have a variety of tools at their disposal for beating back invasive species to allow the native species to thrive: burning, as practiced by Native Americans for generations; careful application of targeted herbicide; fall and spring mowing, and re-seeding with native seeds. But use of these techniques has been as fragmented as the prairies themselves. Land managers relied on anecdotal knowledge-sharing, or studies testing single treatment in one place.

But now, conservation practitioners have access to a five-year study across the entire geography testing multifaceted restoration techniques and pinpointing the best approach. Read it online.

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