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Volunteer Opportunities for Prairie Restoration Projects in Several NPS Areas

Volunteers on prairie restoration project.

Volunteers collect grass and flower seeds from the prairie at Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, which are planted in other parts of the prairie later, including after a prescribed fire. NPS photo.

The vast sea of grass called the prairie is now just a memory in most of North America, but a few protected and restored remnants still remain. If you'd like to help with prairie restoration projects, several NPS areas are looking for volunteers during the next several weeks.

At Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch, Iowa, a prairie restoration project is scheduled for Saturday, September 26. Volunteers can help by removing shrubs or collecting native plant seeds from the park's 81 acres of tallgrass prairie.

When Herbert Hoover's grandparents moved to this area in the middle of the 19th century, most of Iowa was covered by tallgrass prairie, dotted with brilliant wildflowers through the growing season. Many of these grasses grew to over 6 feet in height with their roots reaching downward twice as deep in the fertile soil.

“Many area residents interested in prairie restoration have lent us a hand in past years,” said Cheryl A. Schreier, superintendent of Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, “We’re excited about building on their volunteer efforts as we continue to restore the park’s native grasslands."

If you're interested in helping with the project, contact Adam Prato at (319) 643-7855 by Friday, September 25. Dress for the weather and wear comfortable work clothes. Water, sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats are recommended. Volunteers will meet at the Visitor Center at 8:30 a.m. for an orientation and to get signed up. Work in the prairie will be from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site is located in West Branch, Iowa. You'll find directions to the park and information to help plan a visit on the park website.

The project at Herbert Hoover is only one of many activities being held across the country on September 26 for the 16th annual National Public Lands Day (NPLD). This national event "gives Americans a yearly opportunity to make public lands in their communities cleaner, prettier, and safer."

Another prairie restoration event on the NPLD schedule will be conducted at Effigy Mounds National Monument, which is located along the upper Mississippi River in northeastern Iowa.

Volunteers will "collect and redistribute prairie seed to provide new native plant growth in the proximity of American Indian earthen mounds." Participants will meet at the Visitor Center at 9:00 a.m. on September 26 for an orientation. Work in the prairie will be from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., followed by a lunch provided by the monument. If you'd like to participate, you need to contact the park by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 25. You can phone (563) 873-3491or send an e-mail to: [email protected]

Driving directions and other details about the area are available on the park website.

Further to the west, Homestead National Monument of America is located near the southeastern corner of Nebraska.

The 100 acres of tallgrass prairie and 60 acres of riparian woodland at Homestead ... are similar to the environment that Daniel Freeman encountered when he first staked his claim. The park’s prairie, restored in 1939, is the second oldest restoration effort in the United States. This restoration has brought back much of the prairie’s original diversity, with 116 species of plants present on the Monument. Also notable is the rare, mesic bur oak forest.

There will be an opportunity on Saturday, October 3, for volunteers to assist in maintaining the restored tallgrass prairie by collecting seed. You're probably starting to notice a pattern with these events, so what's the deal about seeds? According to the park,

Seed is needed on a regular basis to reseed areas damaged through erosion or management activities. Harvesting seed from the prairie helps the monument ensure local ecotype seed is used. Using local seed ensures that the plant is adapted for an area. Seed from outside the area may lead to less vigorous plant growth or plants flowering at different times.

No experience is needed to help harvest prairie seed, and the project will begin at 9:30 a.m. on October 3. If you need additional information, you can call the park office at 402-223-3514.

The restoration project at Homestead is part of Prairie Appreciation Week, which is being held at the park September 27 through October 3, 2009. You'll find directions to the park here, along with additional details about other activities during Prairie Appreciation Week.

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