Seeds for the future: Ikes halfway through two-part prairie restoration project

Published 7:01 am Wednesday, July 22, 2020

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The Austin chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America (Ikes) has partnered with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on a two-part restoration project that includes two chunks of land in Mower County.

The first was in the eastern part of the county in the Cary Creek Wildlife Management Area this past spring. The second part will be this fall in the Mentel Wildlife Management Area just off Interstate 90 and north of transfer station and the Austin Municipal Airport.

Together, the two sites account for 14 total acres. The Cary Creek site was four acres and the Mentel will be 10 acres.

Wild parsnip is one of the invasive weeds the Izaak Walton League is opening to take down with land restoration. Eric Johnson/

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The total price of the venture is $11,110 split between a grant total of $10,000 from from the DNR, specifically the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, which in turn is a CPL grant from the Outdoor Heritage Fund.

Another $1,110 came from the Ikes themselves.

Locally, the Ikes partnered with the Mower County Soil and Watershed Conservation District to restore these lands to original prairie.

“Jeanine Vorland (area wildlife manager for the Department of Natural Resources) picks the seeds and we buy that and inventory it when we’re ready to plant,” said Mark Owens, president of the Ikes chapter in Austin. “Prior to that, we mow and spray and after seeding, we may have to mow again.”

The prairie seeds that are picked out are native to within 50 miles and the effort itself is an attempt to not only restore the land to help foster the wildlife in those areas, but to combat invasive weeds as well.

This includes plants like the wild parsnip and buckthorn that grow in an area and stifle the growth of other plants.

It will take about three years for the two parcels of land to be restored, so by 2023 it is expected that both sites will have a bed of the flowers and grasses.

This last planting took around three to four hours to seed and was made easier with help from the SWCD.

The seeder from the Mower County Soil and Watershed Conservation District was used to help the Ikes with the first part of their prairie restoration project this spring. Photo provided

“The seeder that the SWCD has is perfect for that type of thing,” Owens said. “That’s what it was bought for. We arranged for a loaner tractor from SEMA in Grand Meadow that met them at the site.”

This project is part of an ongoing effort by the Ikes to enhance the outdoor world around us.  Similarly, the Ikes did some conservation by Ramsey Mill Pond through partnerships with the DNR.

It’s also hoped that this won’t be the last time the Ikes can do more for the natural world.

“(Jeanine) has several other things that she would like to get done and we have indicated that we would be more than happy to help with that,” Owens said.

What was planted

This is the list of the seeds that were originally planned for planting in the two plots. However, there were some adjustments to the final planting due to availability and costs.


Bluejoint, Indiangrass, Switchgrass, Sideoats gama, Silky Wild Rye, Canada Wild Rye, Big Bluestem,  Little Bluestem, Prairie dropseed, Woolgrass, Fox sedge, Bebb’s sedge.

Forbs (herbaceous flowering plant)

Prairie wild onion, Canada anemone, Anise hyssop, Butterfly milkweed, Common milkweed, Swamp milkweed, Purple milkweed, Showy tick trefoil, White prairie clover, Joe pye weed, Early sunflower, Meadow blazing star, Prairie blazing star, Rough blazing star, Great blue lobelia, Prairie coreopsis, Round-headed bush clover, Wild bergamot, Mountain mint, Gray-headed coneflower, Prairie wild rose, Black-eyed susan, Early figwort, Cup plant, Stiff goldenrod, Showy goldenrod, Bracted spiderwort, Smooth blue aster, Sky blue aster, Blue vervain, Hoary vervain, Heart-leaved Alexanders, Culver’s root, Golden Alexanders.