Katy High School Native Prairie Project

Background

Katy, Texas is a large suburban community located within the Greater Houston metropolitan area and spanning three different counties. Historically, this coastal region was covered by millions of acres of diverse tallgrass prairie, which provided important habitat for migratory birds and endemic rarities like the Attwater’s prairie-chicken. Despite their former prevalence, only one percent of Texas’ coastal prairies remain, suffering the effects of widespread urbanization and agricultural land conversion. Prairies continue to be Texas’ most endangered ecosystem, despite the benefits they provide: improving soil health and stabilization, air and water filtration, flood mitigation and groundwater recharge, and wildlife habitat. In response to the widespread loss of native prairie habitat, students and faculty at Katy High School began a Gulf Coast prairie restoration project on their school property in 2018.

Katy High School Native Prairie Project, Tiger Prairie
Sign in front of the project.

Project

The collaborative restoration effort between Katy HS and community groups kicked off with clearing the one-acre lot of non-native weeds and grasses with herbicide in late 2018. This effort was followed by planting two rounds of cover crops in spring 2019, which improve soil nutrient content and infiltration in preparation for the first seeding of prairie species in the fall of this year. Katy High School’s Tiger Prairie will eventually include up to 50 different native plant species, mimicking the historically biodiverse Texas Coastal prairies. Future plans for the prairie project include installing signage, walking trails, seating, rainwater catchment/irrigation systems, and restoring the school greenhouse. CEMEX USA, which operates a plant in Katy and a 2018 TxN Conservation Wrangler project, recently pledged to pave the trails for Tiger Prairie. TxN is proud to connect industry and community partners to facilitate conservation efforts in our state.

Katy High School Native Prairie Project
Following herbicide treatment, the lot was planted with cover crops such as turnips, rye, and peas, which enrich the soil.

Community Impact

The ongoing restoration efforts at Tiger Prairie will serve not only as a local biodiversity hotspot, improving habitat quality and connectivity for wildlife, but also as an outdoor classroom and community resource. Students at Katy HS have already used the prairie’s early stages to study soil health, ecology, land management, and other biology topics. The student bee-keeping club maintains hives near the prairie, and horticulture students will be growing native seedlings for Tiger Prairie and additional community restoration projects. Additionally, Katy HS hopes that Tiger Prairie will exemplify urban conservation practices that can be implemented around the city and beyond, such as using native plants and fostering local environmental awareness. The prairie will preserve aspects of the local ecological history for Katy residents to explore while learning about the benefits of maintaining pockets of “wild” space in an increasingly urbanized landscape.

Partners

Katy Prairie Conservancy, Wildlife Habitat Federation, CEMEX USA, Black Bear Diner, Keep Katy Beautiful, Fast Signs, and Turner Seed Company.

Katy High School students planting cover crops during the second stage of restoration.
Students planting cover crops during the second stage of restoration.

Katy High School student beekeeping club
Katy HS student beekeeping club managing hives near the prairie.

Learn more about this project

Visit the project website

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