Palouse Prairie Projects
Through several years of working to preserve rare prairie remnants, Latah SWCD and partnering researchers, landowners and government agencies have worked together to develop some suggested management strategies.
Latah SWCD has been partnering with landowners as well as local, state, and federal agencies to increase habitat for important pollinator species like the western bumblebee and Monarch butterfly.
To increase the abundance of Palouse Prairie plant species across the landscape Latah SWCD has assisted with converting fields planted to non-native vegetation to native plant species. Native plant establishment can be a slow process, however, over the years we have learned useful lessons from different strategies used at our conversion project sites that can provide examples of successful methods. Methods for converting land to native plant communities will depend on the initial condition of each site.
In Idaho, Spalding's Catchfly (Silene spaldingii) is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Since 2013, Latah SWCD has planted close to 3,000 Spalding's Catchfly plants as part of the recovery efforts and continues to monitor these sites for survival.
Latah SWCD works to potect and restore Palouse Prairie ecosystems in the region on a scale that supports the self-sustaining function of these ecosystems
Prairie Restoration and Preservation
The Palouse Prairie ecosystem, which was once predominate throughout the region, is now rare in our landscape. Most of what was once Palouse Prairie has been converted to cropland. Prairie remnant sites that still exist occur primarily on private lands and are not always protected for long-term preservation. Latah SWCD works with several landowners and local organizations to restore, preserve, and expand existing prairie remnants. While restoration and expansion of the Palouse Prairie is challenging and labor intensive, it is important to do as it is a valued natural resource in Latah County. Common barriers to native vegetation establishment include incursion by noxious weeds, lack of appropriate soil microbial community and soil biotic crusts that are important to the prairie ecosystem.
While we cannot rebuild Palouse Prairie ecosystems in our lifetime, we can increase the extent of native prairie plant communities in our landscape. For example, Latah County supports a substantial area of CRP land that is seeded in non-native perennial grasses. This land has potential to support Palouse Prairie plant communities and several landowners have worked with Latah SWCD to make this transition. Because the Palouse Prairie has been declared an endangered ecosystem, current CRP guidelines encourage its restoration. Increasing the abundance of Palouse Prairie plant species throughout the region has many benefits to pollinators, wildlife, and over landscape-scale ecosystem functions.
Latah SWCD is happy to be working with Maynard, a retired soil scientist who worked at the University of Idaho for 41 years. Maynard is now working as a Palouse Prairie restoration pioneer who has helped us all learn more about prairie restoration techniques and methods. He is restoring 5 acres of former pasture to native Palouse Prairie vegetation. The pasture that was once dominated by smooth brome now supports a diverse stand of native grasses and wildflowers which makes it a haven for pollinators and other wildlife. Read more here
Meet Maynard Fosberg, Palouse Prairie Restoration Pioneer