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Seed collecting is a leisurely way to enjoy the prairie and learn about prairie grasses! Our first…

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Prairie Facts

Significant Public Grasslands in Texas

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department conducts an ongoing program to document resources and inventory communities on department lands, including State Parks and Wildlife Management Areas.

Relative to other community types, grasslands are not well represented on TPWD lands. However, the department does control some significant and diverse tracts, and the Resource Management section of the Parks Division has actively restored and rehabilitated a number of diverse grassland communities.

1. Cedar Hill State Park, located near Dallas. Approximately 60 acres in four tracts are preserved as hay meadows. Primarily, the areas are big bluestem-Indiangrass communities with abundant forbs. Continuous stewardship involves burning, haying, and in the future perhaps controlled grazing. One 13-acre tract known as Penn Prairie is primarily big bluestem and is the best known.

2. Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area (WMA), Hemphill County. near Canadian. The WMA contains a 50 acre subirrigated meadow with switchgrass, prairie cordgrass,and eastern gamagrass. This tall grass prairie remnant is subject to grazing and mowing. The area could be a candidate for natural area designation (tall grass prairie remnant) with a slight change in management based on natural community stewardship.

3. Davis Mountains State Park near Ft. Davis. About 200 acres of montane grama grassland located at the transition zone with pinyon-juniper-oak woodland. Acquisition of a grazing lease has allowed community-based stewardship. This current wet year will greatly enhance production. Future stewardship is planned to include prescribed burning. The grassland also supports a good population of Montezuma Quail.

4. Brazos Bend State Park, Fort Bend County. 400 acres of fairly good Indiangrass-little bluestem tall grass coastal prairie is managed through periodic prescribed burning and mowing. It is the best example of coastal prairie on department lands, and is an important aspect of the park interpretive program. Future plans call for introduction of population of Attwater’s Prairie Chicken, common here about 40 years ago.

5. Matagorda Island State Park. An estimated 500-750 acres of barrier island strand/seacoast bluestem prairie are fenced to exclude grazing so that the tract can be managed as a natural community. Sometimes called salt meadow, this narrow grassland occurs in the high sandy ridges behind the dunes and above the marsh grasslands. Very little of this community type remains in Texas.

6. Monahans Sandhills State Park, Ward County near Monahans. The park features a very interesting tall grassland community within the Chihuahuan Desert. Tall grasses such, as giant sandreed, sand bluestem, Havard panicum and little bluestem exist together in mosaic with Havard oak on deep windblown sands. This community type is related to those found on deep sands elsewhere in the Trans-Pecos (e.g., The Nature Conservancy’s Gypsum Dunes Preserve) and eastward in deep sands throughout the Rolling Plains. However, few good undisturbed examples remain.

7. Franklin Mountains State Park, El Paso County. Several thousand acres of desert grasslandsare present on the park’s eastern side. These are primarily composed of various species of grama grasses with a high percentage of stem and leaf succulents (desert plants). Together with similar desert grasslands on limestone and igneous rocks at Black Gap WMA, the department controls approximately 10-15,000 acres of good, true desert grasslands. These will be subject to more detailed examination and are likely candidates for designation as natural areas (i.e., excellent examples of natural communities) within existing TPWD holdings.

8. Kreische Brewery/Monument Hill State Park near La Grange. This site contains about 10 acres of tall grass prairie with big bluestem, Indiangrass and abundant forbs on a west-facing slope. This little known grassland is perhaps the most unusual on department lands. It occurs adjacent to post oak woodlands as well as communities akin to those as the Edwards Plateau. The unusual diversity of this site is significant.

The following are examples of grassland restoration projects underway on selected state parklands. All restoration projects have used native seed either collected from remnant areas, purchased where appropriate commercial sources could be found, or provided through cooperative agreement with the NRCS Plant Materials Center at Knox City, Texas. Each example describes community restoration efforts that began with former croplands.

Copper Breaks State Park. Hardeman County. This is a 120 acre project begun in 1974 and reseeded with initial mix of about 15 species. Today the area at the entrance to the park looks like a natural prairie. It is maintained by prescribed burning and is lightly grazed with the department longhorn herd.

Caprock Canyons State Park, Briscoe County, near Quitaque. This project was begun in 1980on former cotton land and adjacent to an approximately 250 acre area restored by the Soil Conservation Service’s Great Plains program in the 1960’s. Diverse seeding and subsequent management have created a 600 acre mixed grassland that one must cross to arrive at the park headquarters. In 1983, black-tailed prairie dogs were introduced. Today a small colony is well established. Several bison were added in 1985, and in the winter of 1987 10 pronghorn antelope were added by Wildlife Division personnel. Today this “natural” community is an important interpretive attraction at the park. Citizens can now experience, on a small scale, the countryside as it must have appeared before the land was modified by modern man.

TPWD Headquarters Complex in Austin. Approximately 20 acres of the TPWD headquarters grounds, former cotton land, have been restored to resemble the natural Blackland Prairie community that once occurred here. The project was begun in 1976. Today the site is dominated by Indiangrass, little bluestem, side-oats grama, and a variety of forbs and wildflowers. It is managed by mowing and occasional burning.