For Immediate Release
(January 4, 2008)
Local employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners in the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture met at Cottonwood Waterfowl Production Area in Phelps County for a pre-Thanksgiving tradition last week: their annual "seed-bagging day."
Wearing dust masks and wielding plastic scoop shovels, workers attacked a ten-foot-tall heap of native plant seed, mixing and bagging approximately 8 tons in four hours. That's enough, says USFWS's Brad Krohn, to plant 1000-1500 acres of prairie and wetland restorations. The high-diversity seed mix contains native grass seed - including big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass, and Canada wild rye -- collected from the Waterfowl Production Areas managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service's Rainwater Basin Wetland Management District, located in Kearney. The mix also includes native forb, or broad-leaf, seeds -- such as purple prairie clover, black-eyed Susan, New England aster, and two species of penstemon -- contributed by The Nature Conservancy and Prairie Plains Resource Institute, both based in Aurora.
The Fish and Wildlife Service not only uses the seed mix on Waterfowl Production Areas in south-central Nebraska, but also distributes bags free of charge to nearby National Wildlife Refuges and to other organizations engaged in habitat restoration. "We try to work with all organizations that are in need of native seed, from small acreages, all the way up to Ducks Unlimited," says Krohn, who coordinates the seed program.
Steve Donovan, Manager of Conservation Programs for DU in Nebraska, says his organization has used contributed seed to restore former cropland to waterfowl habitat at the Verona Complex in Clay County, and that several additional sites will benefit this year. "Native seed is very expensive," he says, "and it helps tremendously to have a source like this."