Restoring woodlands and savanna in Dakota County Parks
Dakota County was once covered by a mosaic of prairie, savanna, woodland and forest. This patchy and varied landscape was home to thousands of plant and animal species.
But due to fire suppression, buckthorn invasion, and other factors, many of the wooded areas in the park are dense and not very diverse. Lebanon Hills is missing open woodland and savanna habitat types.
Woodland and savanna habitats support 36 wildlife species of greatest conservation need. These include red-headed woodpeckers, Bell’s vireos, brown thrashers, skinks and milk snakes.
Restoration is messy
Restoration is messy and can look destructive. You may notice what looks like mulch on the ground after a forestry mower has cut down buckthorn and invasive shrubs. This mulch will quickly degrade and be replaced by new native plant growth.
Before restoration, oaks are choked with buckthorn, there are only a few plants growing in the understory, and there are no young oak trees.
After restoration, buckthorn is removed and fire is used as a maintenance tool. There is habitat to support more than 100 plant species, making it great habitat for many kinds of wildlife. Season-long blooms provide food for pollinators, including the rusty patched bumblebee. Rare plants like lily-leaved twayblade recolonize.