Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary
About Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary
The Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary located in McKinney, TX manages roughly 60 combined acres of Blackland Prairie restoration sites. The Blackland Prairie ecoregion once covered over 19,000 square miles in Texas, which began at the Red River, north of Dallas, and extended south to present-day San Antonio. Now, less than 1% of this ecologically critical ecosystem remains. And, on a larger scale, the Blackland Prairie is one of many prairie ecoregions in the Midwest. Experts estimate that less than 4% of the iconic North American prairie remains, making it one of the rarest and most endangered ecosystems in the world. Because of this, the Heard’s Sanctuary Department decided that its foremost management goal for 2020-2025 would be the restoration, enhancement and interpretation of their prairie sites.
Project Description & History
The Heard Wildlife Sanctuary is comprised of 8 unique restored prairie sites. Each site requires different management practices based upon its soil type, elevation, floral diversity, drainage and invasive species presence. Major threats to these sites are invasive species and forestation. The Heard plans to fight these threats and restore the prairies to a healthy status through implementation of appropriate cultural, mechanical, and chemical control methods. Through these methods, they hope to restore these at-risk prairie remnants to an authentic Texas landscape. Subsequently, the Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to interpret the importance and rarity of this landscape for a variety of visitors and the surrounding community
The Heard’s most recent restoration efforts began in May 2019. They selected a 6.75 acre prairie site known as “The Restored Prairie.” The Restored Prairie was once a rolling meadow abundant with an aesthetically appealing array of native grasses and forbs. However, in May 2019, Restored Prairie was dominated mostly by non-native Johnson grass and noxious giant ragweed, and was being encroached upon by several species of saplings. Through chemical application, manual removal, and well-timed mowing, Heard staff and volunteers were able to get these undesirable plants under control. After this the site was prepped for seeding and approximately $3700 worth of native seeds were broadcast. The Heard Wildlife Sanctuary has begun similar work on four other prairie sites: East Bullfrog Prairie, West Bullfrog Prairie, SRC Prairie, and Ken’s Prairie. This work will continue through the coming years.
Healthy prairie ecosystems provide many benefits to the local community. Due to the very absorbent soils of prairie ecosystems, they provide flood control. As changes in rainfall occur and development (and therefore, runoff) increases, this will become an increased need. These ecosystems also improve water quality. The deep roots of the flora of the prairie ecosystem prevents soil erosion, keeping the soil out of water supplies. The plants can also remove nitrates and other harmful materials from the water. The Heard increases regional tourism by bringing in nature lovers and birding enthusiasts. They also provide educational opportunities to the public. The best way for people to learn about the importance of the Blackland Prairie ecosystem is by experiencing it first-hand.