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Habitat Restoration

Take a walk along the Sac and Fox Trail west and south of the Bertram Road SE trailhead and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of a native Iowa woodland – majestic walnuts and sycamores with eagles perched over the creek, orioles and crickets chirping, deer and raccoon tracks along the path and the musty scent of decomposing leaves. This beautiful stretch of woods recently benefited from a habitat restoration project. On Friday, February 2, Forestry crews removed invasive and undesirable understory trees that were crowding out a very old native black walnut and a natural grove of Kentucky coffee trees located nearby. They also removed dead limbs and those that were overhanging the walking path.

Habitat restoration may include mowing, removing invasive plants or trees, and selective pruning to promote the vigor of the hardwood tree canopy. Thinning the growth alleviates crowding, admits more sunlight and promotes the seeding of native species that provide habitat and food for wildlife and pollinators. While most trees and plants may provide food and shelter for wildlife, the habitat provided by native species is superior to that of non-native species because animals and insects have adapted to the trees and plants where they live.

The Parks and Recreation Department is committed to habitat restoration and recently created a position called Natural Resources Coordinator whose job is to evaluate the vegetation on the City’s 4171 acres of parks and trails and to preserve and enhance the growth of native grasses, forbs and trees by eliminating invasive species – especially buckthorn, honeysuckle and multi-flora rose – and removing lower quality trees such as box elder. Additionally, hundreds of acres of native grasses and forbs are being planted throughout the City’s parks and trails system to enhance pollinator habitat.

Next time you hike this trail, look for the areas where crews have used habitat restoration techniques and those where they have not. We hope you can see the improvement.
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