Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands

American Youth Works restores threatened prairie habitat on Kisatchie National Forest

American Youth Works’ Green Crew member Robin Maida girdling trees in the Carpenter Road prairie on the Winn Ranger District. Girdling, also called ring barking or ring-barking is the complete removal of a strip of bark from around the entire circumference of either a branch or trunk of a woody plant. Girdling results in the death of the area above the girdle over time. Forest Service photo by David C. Moore.

PINEVILLE, La. — In 2016, American Youth Works received a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore the calcareous prairies on the Kisatchie National Forest and rangelands on the National Forests and Grasslands of Texas.

The American Youth Works Green Crew began their restoration efforts in the Carpenter Road prairie on the Winn Ranger District in the calcareous prairies in late July. The goal of the project was to control the woody brush and vines with cutting, followed by an immediate herbicide application to the freshly-cut surface. Brush in this particular prairie was especially thick, yet the Green Crew worked hard in the heat and humidity to restore and improve the Carpenter Road prairie to its natural state.

Prairies like these are formed from marine sediments that are about 40 to 45 million years old. Historically there were about 40,000 acres of prairies in central and northern Louisiana, but only about 300 acres remain today. Unlike the tallgrass prairies of the Midwestern United States, these prairies were never very expansive. The largest was probably about 1,300 acres, but most were around 50 acres or less. This is similar to other prairies scattered throughout the southeastern United States. Today there are about 76 prairies encompassing 157 acres on the Winn Ranger District.

The quality of these prairies are in various states of condition and all show signs of encroachment by trees, shrubs and vines. Left unchecked, most of these prairies will be lost to this encroachment. Thanks to the grant from NFWF and the dedicated Green Crew youth, the Kisatchie National Forest is closer to restoring the calcareous prairies to their desire condition and saving this unique habitat for future generations to come.

American Youth Works’ Green Crew members pose in the Carpenter Road prairie on the Winn Ranger District. The crew also spent time with Forest Service employees discussing forest ecology, including vegetative composition of canopy species and the importance of the calcareous prairies and the woodland complex. Forest Service photo by David C. Moore.

In the heat and humidity, Green Crews used girdling and chainsaws to remove brush within the Carpenter Road prairie. The cleared brush was then removed from the prairies and scattered in the surrounding calcareous woodlands, where it will decompose or be consumed by a prescribed burn without affecting seed germination and growth of forbs and grasses in the prairies. Forest Service photo by David C. Moore.