Grassland and Oak Woodlands Restoration

A pair of habitat improvement projects in New Mexico and Nebraska are restoring grasslands and oak woodlands to their full potential.

Winter forage is critically important in many of America’s Western Wildlands’ states, as snow depths often exceed a foot for months and limit access to food.

Thick cover, such as forested areas and shrub thickets, provides thermal cover during the winter to help wild turkeys and other wildlife survive. Habitat diversity is critical to survival in many of our western states, including Nebraska.

Cooperative efforts of the loosely-formed Nebraska Oak Woodland Alliance have come together to improve oak woodlands and habitat in eastern Nebraska, according to Jared McJunkin, NWTF Northwest District conservation field supervisor. The NWTF, as a partner of the Oak Woodland Alliance, has helped fund woodland-restoration projects on two Nebraska Game and Parks Commission properties. “The Nebraska Oak Woodland Alliance also is making a large outreach effort. At the center are forestry workshops to increase awareness about active oak management, using prescribed fire and forest thinning,” he said.

A project focused on grassland birds is helping wild turkeys, pronghorn antelope and other wildlife near Tucumcari, New Mexico, between Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Amarillo, Texas, said Scott Lerich, NWTF senior regional biologist in New Mexico. 

Part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partnership Program, the 2014 project is helping sustain common bird species, such as scissor-tailed flycatchers, scaled quail, meadowlarks and sparrows. The 620-acre project focused on reducing woody cover, mesquite and juniper, by encouraging growth of native grasses to benefit these grassland-nesting birds.

“One landowner told me he didn’t have any pronghorns raise fawns in his pasture,” Lerich said. “After the project, eight fawns were born there in 2014. That’s a significant improvement.”

Observers also saw turkey poults in the area last spring.

“This has been a great project involving three landowners to demonstrate that the NWTF is dedicated to upland habitat conservation,” Lerich said. 

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