This past week, we were finally able to close out a big project at Kankakee Sands. Pretty much all of 2020 was dedicated to the prairie restoration in what we call Unit I.
Our team met in very early spring to divvy up the 147 species of plants we needed to get specific quantities of seed for the growing season that would allow us to meet our goals for the planting. I think everyone had 10 to 20 species they were responsible for in some capacity.
Each native species ripens differently across the seasons, and they require extensive scouting for good populations ahead of time. Luckily, we have a nice database from previous years with GPS locations for most species that can give us a head start.
I am thankful for that because looking for half an ounce of seed for an obscure prairie species across 8,000 acres without any guidance is a bit stressful.
With the pandemic in the background, staff and volunteers collected, cleaned and mixed what amounted to well over 700 pounds of mostly hand-collected seed just for the 324-acre Unit I project. Last week, that seed was put into barrels and mixed with pelletized lime as a carrier agent.
We worked with a local contractor on a calm day to spread it across two different mapped out habitat types. The seed came to rest over fall harvested soybean stubble covered with a thin layer of snow. Pictured here is one of the two TerraGator machines used for spreading.
This project has been in the works well before 2020 and, in fact, it began as an idea two site managers before me had as a partnership with the NRCS and the Indiana DNR. It is exciting to see the seed finally hit the soil.
The hard part now is exercising patience as the prairie develops. We won’t know for at least three years how successful this planting was. In the meantime, we will continue to add seed here and there and use adaptive management to foster the best habitat for the most species.