| Published: May 11, 2010 – 6:53 pm
Prairie restoration efforts by the Whidbey Camano Land Trust continue in May with the clearing of another 0.75 acres of trees from a former prairie on the Land Trust’s Naas Natural Area Preserve near Coupeville. This work will be carried out by a local company as part of a $200,000 American Recovery and Restoration Act (ARRA) grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program. The goal of the grant is to restore the rare golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta) and associated native prairie habitat at the Naas Preserve.
“We’re using economic stimulus money to hire local businesses that will help with tree and shrub removal, mowing and planting,” says Cheryl Lowe, land steward for the Whidbey Camano Land Trust. “We also paid local growers to gather seed and raise native plants for us. Last fall, 10 local landscape contractors helped us plant more than 17,000 of those plants in the prairie. Now we’ve hired Pioneer Tree Service to help with more tree removal.” The tree clearing will connect two fields that were once a single prairie remnant.
The Naas Preserve shelters one of the twelve remaining populations of golden paintbrush left in the world. The paintbrush is listed as a federally threatened species and considered endangered in Washington State.
Prairies were once prevalent on central Whidbey Island, and the tree removal is yet another step in a long-term plan to restore a piece of it. Less than one percent of Whidbey Island’s native prairies remain, and the Naas Preserve is one of the largest prairie remnants.
The trees to be removed invaded the prairie grassland over the last 10 to 15 years. “The process will be as low impact as possible,” says Mark Sheehan, Naas Project Manager with the Whidbey Camano Land Trust. “We’re donating logs that are large enough to be used as firewood to a local charity that provides firewood to those in need.”
After removing the trees, the Land Trust will prepare the site and plant native grasses, sedges and wildflowers. Many of these species have become uncommon or rare on Whidbey Island due the loss of prairie habitat. Ultimately, golden paintbrush will be reintroduced to the cleared site as part of a multi-agency effort to recover this species to a self-sustaining level.
“We’re privileged to use these funds to restore the historic prairie habitat at the Naas Preserve and, at the same time, help the economy of our community by supporting local businesses on Whidbey Island,” says Pat Powell, executive director for the Land Trust.
The Whidbey Camano Land Trust will host at least four public tours of the restoration area over the next two years. The property is owned and managed by the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources holds a conservation easement.