Gaiam Goes Wild For Go Zero: Part 3
How Go Zero has helped restore native forestlands: Q&A with Tim Menard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist
To better understand the on-the-ground benefit of Gaiam’s support, we sat down with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Tim Menard to discuss the restoration of 775 acres of native forestland along the Marais des Cygnes River, near the borders of Kansas and Missouri, using funds from the Go Zero program. Menard oversees conservation efforts in this area—including biodiversity, wildlife research, land use planning and management, and wildlife habitat enhancement across 25,500 acres of forestland and tall-grass prairie.
How did you get involved with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?
I worked for all four major federal land management agencies and determined this to be the best fit. I chose the Fish and Wildlife Service because of its focus and clear mission — wildlife first. It’s about implementation, habitat restoration and wildlife management.
How did Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge work with the Go Zero program?
The Go Zero program helped us with two things. First, it enabled us to reforest more acres than we ever could have on our own in a single year — or even over a five-year period. Second, it gave us the freedom to determine the tree species composition that was best for the land and the wildlife. As a result, we can bring back a native ecosystem more quickly than would otherwise be possible.
Why did the land need to be restored?
When we looked at the original land surveys from 1856, we could see that all of the area adjacent to the Marais des Cygnes River was forested. Over time, the land was cleared for agriculture, and then eventually those fields were taken out of production. More than 80 percent of the land that was restored in the spring of 2008 has been out of production since the refuge was established in 1992.
How will the region’s birds and wildlife benefit? How long will it take?
That’s the interesting part. An entire array of species will benefit throughout the life of the forest, beginning right now. We don’t have to wait 70 to 100 years to realize the benefits of replanting with native species. Even now, there are birds using the restored lands. In the early years, the restored parcels are used by field sparrows. In 20 years, we’ll see yellow breasted chat and indigo bunting. At the forest’s full maturity, our children will be able to spot prothonotary warbler nests, and in the winter months, red-headed woodpeckers.
We know that the trees will absorb carbon dioxide from the air, but what is happening to the water on the refuge?
By restoring these marginal agriculture fields back to their native habitat, we have established permanent vegetation. This will help stabilize the topsoil and slow the rate of runoff, reducing the effects of flooding along the Marais des Cygnes River.
What’s next for Marais des Cygnes NWR?
We’ll continue to manage the newly restored 775 acres for wildlife. But we’re already actively seeking funds for another project. There are thousands of acres just waiting to be restored on the Missouri side of the border.