Tour of Prairie Chapel Ranch

 

Prairie Tour by Pam Mundo Indian Trail Master Naturalist

Before the heat faded this spring’s bountiful prairie flowers, some of the members of the Indian Trail Master Naturalists accepted the invitation and privilege of a wonderful prairie walk. We visited an 80 acre restored prairie which is part of Prairie Chapel Ranch in McLennan County. Most of you will probably know this area better as the Western White House during the George W. Bush Presidential Term. What a wonderful thing, President George W. and First Lady Laura  Bush have done, allowing Mike Williams to assist them in restoring a section of their ranch into a beautiful native prairie. The 80 acres is filled with natural grasses, Texas wildflowers and a few ever-present invasive species. These non-native weeds crop up everywhere in Texas and have to be removed by hand.

Mike Williams has also been managing and preserving a native prairie on his own property known as Simpson Prairie. The Simpson Prairie is within a conservation easement. Mike lays claim that this property has never been plowed, making this prairie a “real” native prairie. The Simpson family sold the prairie lands to Mike and his wife Marliss Williams. Mike has worked some eight years on this prairie removing invasive species and trees. We learned first-hand about the management needs of prairies. Invasive plants appear to be brought in by bird droppings and by other creatures of the prairie.

In working the Prairie Chapel Ranch restoration, Mike Williams indicated he started with 40 acres.  To restore the prairie he plowed the land for two years working back the weeds and non-prairie grasses. After two years, Mike then planted native buffalo grass seed  and native flower seeds by mechanically seeding in or by  spreading hay which had been baled from the Simpson Prairie.

Those of us touring and learning about native prairie restoration and management were guests of the Native Prairies Association of Texas (NPAT) contact@texasprairie.org . Phillip Quast of the Native Prairies Associations of Texas arranged the tours of the Prairie Chapel Ranch and Simpson Prairie. The Native Prairies Association of Texas (NPAT) is a non-profit land trust dedicated to the conservation, restoration, and appreciation of native prairies, savannas, and other grasslands in Texas. Wow, do we appreciate the work it takes to maintain a wonderful prairie like those we enjoyed on the tour. The prairie management takes knowledge of what not to do such as overgrazing and what to do such as removal of non native grasses and weed or invasive species.

Indian Trail Chapter is part of the Statewide Texas Master Naturalist Volunteer  Program of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the Texas Cooperative Extension. The Mission …to develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities.For more information, please call the AgriLife Extension Service at 972-825-5175 or email: ellis-tx@tamu.edu

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