Managing Wachiska's Prairies
by Wachiska's Conservation Committee
While it is admirable and easy to think globally, it is harder to act locally; yet, Wachiska Audubon has acted locally by acquiring land and conservation easements on almost 1,000 acres to protect one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world, the tallgrass prairie. It is the job of Wachiska’s conservation committee to manage these lands and easements.
Join us on Thursday, September 10, at 7:00 p.m. for a virtual tour of Wachiska’s prairies as the members of our conservation committee share photos and experiences from the prairies that Wachiska owns in Southeast Nebraska. Traveling thousands of miles and volunteering hundreds of hours, committee members aren’t just out there smelling the wild roses. They are volunteering their time to conduct prescribed burns, scout for invasive species, cut volunteer trees, conduct easement reviews, and gather seed.
Since its founding in the 1970s, Wachiska members have taken an interest not just in birding but also in protecting the habitat of native flora and fauna on the area’s prairies. They identified land and landowners who shared this interest and then raised funds to purchase land or acquire easements to accomplish this mission. The work to maintain the unique plant communities on these lands is a labor of love carried out by these volunteers. They all have a commitment to native prairie and bring unique talents to the group.
Tim Knott is the longest-serving member and knows prairie plants as well as anybody. He was instrumental in identifying prairies to protect and in raising necessary funds. Tim knows the history of the efforts firsthand. Don Pepperl is the legal expert handling easements and land deeds. Raised in Pawnee County, he grew up around prairie. Arnold Mendenhall, a rangeland specialist, was raised on a farm in Kansas and studied at Ft. Hays State. He was the first land manager at Spring Creek Prairie and currently manages our largest tract, the Klapka farm. With a background in wildlife biology, current Chapter President Stu Luttich owns and manages prairie in Fillmore County. Terry Stentz teaches at UNL and has a life-long commitment to conservation through scouting. Beth Coufal knew plants before joining the committee and has become knowledgeable in techniques and timing of harvesting ecotype native seed. She leads our seed-gathering efforts. Committee Chair Ross Scott worked with NRCS all over Southeast Nebraska, where he developed an interest in native plants and prairie. Ethan Freese recently earned a M.S. degree in grassland studies from UNL. He has worked on the Prairie Corridor Project. Ethan graciously volunteered to help us put this presentation together!
Join the conservation committee for a Zoom presentation when they share tips on when to visit and where to go to find their favorite plants, birds, and pollinators. There will be ample time for questions. This free Zoom presentation will be open to the public, but you must register in advance at the link above which can be copied into your browser or go to our website and click the direct link.