Rare oak savanna habitat project begins

Work has begun to improve approximately 150 acres of rare oak savanna habitat in the Blue Hill Trail area at the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Zimmerman.

The first phase of this project will include removal of downed trees and thinning of standing trees by a local logging company. After this, equipment will be used to remove shrubs that encroach in the understory.

A spring burn in 2014 will help to clean up the area, after which forbs and grasses will be planted. In the current prairie area between County Road 9 and the Blue Hill Trail, several hundred young bur oak trees will be established.

This is a major project that will likely take two years to complete. The refuge’s overall goal is for this site to once again provide homes for red-headed woodpeckers, wild turkeys, Blanding’s turtles, white-tailed deer and a host of other species dependent on this rare ecosystem.

Although there will be work done on several other small sections of the refuge, the major portion of this restoration, and the most visible to visitors, will be in the Blue Hill area. There will be periods of time when the trail will be closed; go to www.fws.gov/refuge/sherburne for details.

Funding is being provided through the Conservation Partners Legacy Grant Program, administered for the refuge by the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association.