Shane Blair, Minnesota Department of Agriculture
Habitat loss is one of the most important causes of species decline in the United States. More and more people are looking to restore parts of their property, or their entire property, back to a natural setting. This is great news for native plants, insects, birds, and other wildlife that rely on native habitats for survival. However, this can be an intimidating process for folks that are new to the concepts of landscape restoration and unsure about what is native and what is considered invasive or noxious.
To successfully restore habitat, one must consider a variety of issues that could impact any project before a plan is developed. For example, there may be a history of invasive plants, the soil could be contaminated, or the site has a history of misuse. It is best to understand the past and current state of the site to establish a more native habitat for the future.
To begin the process of restoring a site, one must first create goals of what you would like to see in the future. Some folks like to restore the habitat for hunting purposes such as whitetail deer, grouse, turkey, and others. Some would like to restore the habitat for insects, plants, birds, and other nongame targeted species. Others may simply want to use habitat restoration to improve the soil and water quality on their properties. All these goals are great because they benefit the overall landscape and the plants and animals that will begin to utilize these areas.
This article is not going to explain what to do step by step, but to show you that there is a plethora of resources out there. It is always important for landowners to look locally for resources and contact people who specialize in native habitat restoration within a few hundred miles of the area to be restored. This helps to ensure that a restoration plan is developed that takes into consideration the specific landscape and ecological parameters of the surrounding areas. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is a great source of information to help better understand your area and provides a variety of information on topics including what types of vegetation to plant, how to protect your prairie, private land habitat, tree care, bird feeding tips and many more.
If you are a do-it-yourself kind of person and want to handle it all on your own, first, take the time to learn and understand what is already on your property, whether it is invasive plants, insects, or other undesirables. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has extensive webpages dedicated to noxious and invasive plants and insect pests and diseases. You can find great pictures of insects and plants as well as information on prevention and management.
If you have a better understanding of what your goals are, you may want to consider reaching out to your local Soil and Water Conservation District. They can provide the technology, funding, and education needed to restore the habitat on your property. There are districts located all over Minnesota.
There are many great Minnesota companies that sell native plants, trees, and seeds. And there are a few Minnesota-based companies that are willing to provide full service ecological restoration.
Just remember, do your research first and then decide on what you want to achieve before you begin the process of restoring the habitat on your property.