How the Seeds Are Sown
The early days of Prairie Plains Resource Institute were spent harvesting seeds from local wild populations, planting small plots along Lincoln Creek in Aurora, Nebraska, and understanding the characteristics of local native prairies. These activities, carried out in the 1980s, grew in the 1990s to include the development of large (100+ acres per year) high-diversity wetland and prairie planting efforts along the central Platte River in Nebraska, where lowland prairies are a valued habitat component for huge concentrations of sandhill cranes and waterfowl. This work was done in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nature Conservancy, Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 and the Platte River Whooping Crane Trust.
Considered pioneers in the field of Nebraska prairie restoration, Prairie Plains restoration methods have influenced individuals, organizations and government agencies. Local ecotype prairie and wetland restoration has obvious benefits for wildlife conservation, livestock forage production and soil conservation, as well as often overlooked benefits for water filtration and percolation into the ground. Prairies in the Platte River Watershed are extremely valuable resources because of their relevance to both ground and surface water quantity and quality.
Prairie Restoration is the process of recreating a prairie where one once existed but is now gone. Taking the word "restore" literally, it would result in completely rebuilding the prairie plant and animal community with all the species that a particular site used to have. Definitions can vary, but Prairie Plains defines prairie restoration broadly, including everything from planting a new prairie where the former prairie had been broken and farmed, to improving a degraded prairie, that is, one that was never plowed but lost many plant species due to prior land management practices.
Funded by the Nebraska Environmental Trust, Prairie Plains and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission teamed up in 2003 to create the benchmark restoration how-to manual, "A Guide to Prairie and Wetland Restoration in Eastern Nebraska." Gerry Steinauer, Heritage Botanist for Nebraska Game and Parks, wrote the manual with assistance from Prairie Plains staff and Chris Helzer of the Nature Conservancy's Platte/Rainwater Basin Project Office. The technical review was also contributed by a number of other prairie restorationists in Nebraska and Iowa.
The Restoration Manual is available as a PDF download in two parts: