YES INDEED! Team expands prairie restoration lots for golf course

On November 17th – a stormy day – it became YES! The team (Youth Eco Solutions) met at the Sleepy Eye Golf Course to learn about the importance of the prairie ecosystem and to plant native herbs (flowers) as part of an ongoing habitat restoration project. The afternoon consisted of indoor and outdoor activities for direct participation. YES INDEED! Team is an after-school activity involving both Sleepy Eye Public School and St. Mary’s School students. Trainer for YES! Team are science teachers Deb Reinarts and Mary Beth Botz.

At the golf club, Nate Fore, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill biologist for Brown County, spoke to the YES! Team briefly explaining their job as a farm accounting biologist. He emphasized how prairie seed planting in November mimicked nature’s own methods and guided students in a plant identification activity.

Next several seniors YES! Team members showed the younger members the native apiaries they had built a few years ago. According to the DNR’s Minnesota Pollinators website, “Wild bees provide vital pollination services and are an integral part of biodiversity.” To complete the indoor activities, YES! Trainers Reinarts and Botz involved the students in the process of determining a particular seed mix for prairie biodiversity.

YES INDEED!  The team members formed a golf cart convoy to the prairie plantation area.

The students moved outside, formed a golf cart convoy, and drove to the planting area in the rough area along the fairway that led to hole 3. Karl Weiss, head of the golf course, prepared and ordered the 0.35 acre strips earlier this month. Students scattered the seeds by hand, then kicked them in the ground to mimic the herds of bison that kicked the seeds into the ground as they roamed the prairies for thousands of years.

Students hand-fed scattered seeds and then kicked them into the ground to mimic the bison herds that trampled the seeds into the ground for millennia.

This recent planting expands a prairie restoration project that began in May and June 2018 when the YES! The team identified three 0.33-acre plots in the rough areas between the fairways to be sown with a seed mix certified to contain native Minnesota grasses and grasses. At that time, team members developed a 5-year management plan to ensure the plots were well established and thriving.

When reassessing the three areas in August 2021, the YES! Team coaches Megan Benage, DNR Regional Ecologist, and Karl Weiss formulated plans to remediate one of the Canadian thistle overgrown plots, expand another of the existing plots and build a new 1.33 hectare plot. In total, 2.7 acres more has been added to the original restoration area. Benage worked with Minnesota Native Landscapes, Inc. of Otsego to prepare a seed mix that included a mix of grasses and herbs that are appropriate for the ecology of the site. White sown the larger areas that were not planted by hand by the students.

The ongoing management plan ensures that the YES! The team will continue to monitor the sites and the course manager will assist the team’s efforts with the necessary management tasks – planting, mowing, raking, burning, etc.

Part-funding for the prairie seed mixes was provided through Pheasants Forever’s and Quail Forever’s Pollinator Habitat Outreach Program, which aims to provide financial support for the involvement of youth, families and local communities in setting up pollinator habitat projects. The aim of this program is to educate young people about the importance of pollinators and to create high quality habitats for pollinators. Nate Fore was instrumental in initiating this new partnership between Pheasants Forever / Quail Forever and the YES! Team. In the future, he plans to offer additional training and guidance on habitat management.

National sponsors of the Pollinator Habitat Outreach Program include: Bayer, Monarch Joint Venture, Cabelas Outdoor Fund Pollinator Partnership, Corteva Agriscience, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

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