The State Lands Restoration and Enhancement category provides funding to two state agencies to help repair damaged plant and animal habitat. These grants focus on resource preservation and protection of public lands. Projects in this category help bring important natural areas and resources back to their original functions by improving the self sustaining and ecological functionality of sites.
The Department of Natural Resources used this grant to restore 80 acres of ponderosa pine forest communities, through thinning and woody debris removal, invasive plant control, and planting native vegetation. In addition, 20 acres of adjacent bunchgrass meadows, 10 acres of which were dominated by invasive grasses and forbs, were restored through invasive plant control, seeding, and planting. 50 acres of thinning were conducted in 2018 and 2019, using a prescription developed to replicate natural tree density and distribution patterns. All material was either chipped and scattered on site or removed for use by a non-profit program providing firewood to low income households. The resulting stands now resemble aridland forest stands in terms of their species composition and structure, and fuel loadings have been substantially reduced as a result. Invasive plant control was conducted throughout forested areas in 2018, 2019 and 2020 targeting knapweed, houndstongue, Canada thistle, and an invasive cherry that was found to be much more widespread than previously thought. 1,400 native plant plugs sourced from within the ecoregion were planted into portions of the thinned areas where there was minimal existing understory vegetation. Species included pinegrass, wild strawberry, yarrow, blanketflower, and prairie smoke. Within the bunchgrass meadows, invasive plants were treated throughout the meadow units each year from 2018 to 2020, using a combination of mowing and herbicide applications. Within these units, 10 acres were treated intensively to control invasive grasses, primarily tall oatgrass. In fall 2020, these areas were again mowed, followed by harrowing, seeding, and planting. Approximately 200 lbs of seed were broadcast and 3,390 plugs planted, all sourced from within the ecoregion including some collected from the preserve. Species included rough fescue, bluebunch wheatgrass, Idaho fescue, yarrow, arrowleaf balsamroot, Wyeth buckwheat, silky lupine, and blanketflower.