How Go Zero Benefits Wildlife
As a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tim Menard splits his time between Kansas’ Flint Hills and Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuges and is responsible for biodiversity conversation, wildlife research, land use planning and management and wildlife habitat enhancement across 25,500 acres of forestland and tall grass prairie. Go Zerosat down with Tim to discuss the restoration of 775 acres of native forestland along the Marais des Cygnes River along the border of Kansas and Missouri.
GZ: How did Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge work with the Fund’s Go Zero program?
Tim: The Conservation Fund and its Go Zero program helped us with two things. First, they enabled us to reforest more acres than we could ever have done on our own over the course of a single year – or even over a five year period. Second, they gave us the freedom to determine the species composition that was best for the land and the wildlife. So the end result was the establishment of a native ecosystem—but in an accelerated fashion.
GZ: Why did the land need to be restored?
Tim: 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 this spring has been out of production since the refuge was established in 1992.
GZ: We know that the trees will sequester carbon dioxide that will help clean the air, but what is happening to the water on the refuge?
Tim: By restoring these marginal agriculture fields back to their native habitat, we have established permanent vegetation. This will help to stabilize the top soil, and slow the rate of run off, thereby helping to reduce effects of flooding along the Marais des Cygnes River.
GZ: How will the region’s birds and wildlife benefit? How long will it take?
Tim: 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 70-100 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 from now, 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.
GZ: What’s next for Marais des Cygnes NWR?
Tim: We’ll continue to manage the restored 775 acres for wildlife. But we are actively seeking funding for another project to restore some of the thousands of acres that are available on the Missouri side of the border.