Save The Kasota Prairie
Save The Kasota Prairie

 

ACTIVITIES

 

2015 meeting of the Prairie Advisory Committee held Friday, Feb. 27, at Kasota Unimin plant

Attending were Eric Steinmetz and Harriet Mason from SKP, and Jake Froyum from Prairie Resto.  Unimin has some personnel changes, with Jeff Jurewicz taking on new responsibilities, mostly with operations in Texas and Louisiana although he continues to be based in the Mankato area.  Taking his place at Kasota are Ryan Ortberg and Neil Pekrul as co-managers for the South and North operations, respectively, and Sean Lyons as Plant Superintendent.  All three were at the meeting, along with Elise Steger, Unimin Environmentalist.

As usual, Jake Froyum described the work Prairie Resto has accomplished and has planned for the near future in the first half of the meeting.

Last year, they had planned a Spring burn for Zone #5, nearest the parking lot between the road and the pond, and the eastern portion of Zone #4, west of that, as far as the mowed walking path.  But water levels were so low in the pond that there wasn't any overflow into the watershed that separates eastern Zone #4 from Zone #3, north of the pond.  There was concern that dry conditions and the lack of this natural fire break made it impractical to do a burn in that area, and the burn was limited to just Zone #5, as we saw.  This year, eastern Zone #4 will be burned in the Spring, along with the previously planned Zone #3 and the eastern two-thirds of Zone #2, and the area north of the parking lot outside of the designated conservation area, which is being managed as adjacent areas.  This will involve about 100 acres, somewhat more than usual in one season because of the concern to maintain a green refuge for wildlife.  But Jake and his people are confident that because this will be a compact area with undisturbed tracts in every direction, this will be consistent with good management practices.  Of course, there might be adjustments due to weather and conditions on the ground.
In 2016, Jake told us, they hope to do a late-season burn in the Fall, that will run along the ridgeline from western Zone #4 and the western third of Zone #2, into Zone #1.  There hasn't been a Fall burn here since 1999, he reminded us, and this will not only knock back the encroachment of woody growth from the River valley, but also give a boost to early-blooming flowering forbs the next year, like pasque flowers, lupine and wood lilies.  These tend to be disadvantaged by Spring burns.

Besides controlled burning, Prairie Resto undertook "integrated plant management" during the growing season as needed.  This involved crews of 6-8 workers in late June, for yellow sweet clover, and a more intensive campaign in mid July, for white sweet clover and also thistle and crown vetch.  In addition, the crews worked Zone #6 across the fence north of Zone #2 and east of Zone #1.  This area, being reclaimed to prairie under out original Agreement, had been planted with prairie seedings in 2012 & 2013, and was mowed by tractor with hand-mowing crews supplementing that where the terrain made it necessary.  It was apparently some of this activity that touched off complaints by an occasional visitor that appeared on our Facebook page.  This northern reclamation area is coming along nicely and will be added to the routine burn rotation probably in 2016 and at that time we will consider moving the fence line and integrating it into the public conservation zone.

The balance of the meeting was taken up with more general issues.  Harriet has had some conversations with local bicycling enthusiasts who continue to be confident that a bike trail connecting Saint Peter and Mankato will be routed through the Kasota Prairie along the river bluff.  Ryan, speaking for Unimin, confirmed that there will not be a multi-use trail that allows snowmobiles, ATVs and horseback riders crossing the conservation area nor Unimin property than abuts mining activity, which is to say, any Unimin property on the terrace prairie.  That type of recreational use is simply too hard to control, and apparently, without it, there will not be State funding for the ten million dollar trail segment.  A hiker/biker-only trail along the lines first discussed some years ago, would need to be privately funded and that funding would necessarily include a minimum million-dollar mitigation fund to repair damage if it did finally cross the conservation area.

On another front, Unimin's water meadow project to sustain the flow of ground water to the calcareous fen below the bluff along Twp #367, is functioning and delivering according to specifications.  This is a very exciting project that has positive implications for threatened wetlands everywhere.  But this is poorly understood as yet and there have been negative talk and vandalism of informational signage, somewhat like what we endured with our informational signs on the Prairie.  Both Unimin Security and LeSueur County Sheriff Dept. have had to step up patrolling to head off vandalism and garbage.  Unimin also has a mandate from DNR to cut and treat buckthorn and cedar all along the bluff road #367 from the county line to the Prairie parking lot.  This is a huge undertaking but, when completed, should leave fabulous vistas into the River valley.

And Preferred Sand is out!  Their proposed sand mine and processing plant on property between Unimin's South Mine and Dodd Road has collapsed and Unimin has acquired that property.  For now, Vetter Stone will continue to take dimensional limestone from their pits through there, and there doesn't appear to be any rush to incorporate that into the South Mine.

 



You are invited to explore the Kasota Prairie on foot during every season of the year. Summer walks are made easy and accessible to all by a winding mown path.  There is much to explore -- leave the path to explore plant life and river bottom.


 

"WHAT AM I GETTING INTO?"
A GUIDE TO THE PROCESS OF GROWING NATIVE PLANTS:


Reproduce and share this information as needed.
Available in alternative formats upon request.
Produced by Region V State Parks Resource Management 6/97.
Grow Plants Native to Minnesota, reference 1.

    Growing roots takes time and energy. Imagine the nutrients those strong roots gather to send to showier plant parts. The show is worth waiting for. Every native landscape is a work in progress. If a species fails to grow well in your planting, a flourishing species may expand in to the open space. Marvel at the workings of the community you help create.
I.    Getting to know your site Several factors determine which species and preparation suit your site:
A.    Sun esxpoure: How long is the site exposed to sunlight?
B.    Soil type: Is soil sandy, clay, or loam? Consult your county soil atlas.  To learn soil acidity (ph) and organic content get a soil test from a local University of Minnesota Extension Office or Soil and Water Conservation District;
C:    Drainage / soil moisture: Does the soil hold moisture? Is it dry, mesic (rain soaks in with low run off), or wet:
D:    Existing ground cover: What stays? Perhaps the shade trees or shrubs. What goes? Weeds and problem exotic species;
E:    Neighboring vegetation: Will your planting influence wild native plants, or be influenced by nearby weedy exotics?
II.    Budgeting A native planting is a long-term landscape investment; it can be built in phases. How much can you spend now?
A. Money may be needed for: site preparation, plant materials, and maintenance;
B. Budget your time and resources: Will you do site prep or contract it? Gather some seed or buy it all? Buy plants?
C. Consider options based on available money:
1. Plant the entire site with many different species or
2. Phased plan 1: plant the entire site with base species, add more diversity as budget allows or
3. Phased plan 2: plant many species on part of site, then use own resulting seeds/seedlings to expand planted area
III. Creating a wish list of species for your site: Visit natural areas to see how local natives grow; consult planting and identification guides. To help you choose species, some producers provide a cultural guide, or species list which includes each plant's site requirements, bloom color and bloom time.
IV. Shopping for native plant materials: Look for sources selling seed and plants produced from seed of local origin. Some considerations:


A.

Cleaned, local origin seed with a high percentage of pure live seed (PLS) may seem costly, but should grow best.

B.

Plants, plugs or rootstock are often suggested for gardens, showy edges, woodland and difficult to propagate species.

C.

Make sure plants are not dug from the wild. This depletes the resource and many species do not thrive after transplanting.

V. Preparing and planting the site:


A.

Are there noxious weeds or problem invasive species? Seek competent advice on control techniques. Herbicides hand pulling, weed wrench, cultivation or mowing may control weeds and their seeds long enough for natives to establish. Learn to look for woody exotic species too, such as Tartarian honeysuckle and European buckthorn.

B.

Is existing vegetation relatively weed free? Consider interseeding (no till) or plugging plants into existing vegetation. Example: a thin lawn, or sparse old field. No till means fewer new weeds; soil is held while natives establish.

C.

Do you have proper planting equipment? Ask seed producers about a Truax drill for large sites, hand operated seeders for small sites. Hand broadcasting is an option. Metal bars punch holes for seedlings. Use garden tools for potted plants.

VI. Managing: "Low maintenance" does not mean "no maintenance." Mainly the first few growing seasons require maintenance. How will weeds be controlled? A few inches of wet chopped leaf mulch choke weeds and support seedlings on small areas. In prairie/savanna plantings plan to mow before weeds reach 6-12 inches or hand weed small sites. Long term either burn after the third year, then every 3-6 years as needed or mow on same schedule, removing clippings.

Practice patience and more patience. Every native landscape is a work in progress. The show is worth waiting for.