Katy, Texas is a large suburban community spanning across three different counties within the Greater Houston metropolitan area. 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.
Project Description & History
The collaborative restoration effort between Katy HS and community groups kicked off in 2018. Under the direction of the Wildlife Habitat Federation, a one-year soil restoration phase was followed by the planting of native seeds. After two years of maturation, over 60 species of grass and forb had been documented. Infiltration rates at the site were measured by students and the prairie absorption was 50 times faster than the original campus turf grass. Hundreds of students participated in science lessons, planting native species, removing invasives, and constructing 250 yards of trails.
In the spring of 2021, the Tiger Prairie moved from the original one-acre site to a new two-acre location that includes an open space for prairie vegetation and a forested treeline. Through the last two years, the project has focused on soil remediation. Through drought, heat, and freezing temperatures Katy HS is excited to plant their new crop of prairie seeds in the Fall of 2023! The project is beginning it’s sixth year of restoration and hundreds of Katy students and community members have learned from this process.
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 been using the prairie to study soil health, ecology, land management, and other biology topics. 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 continues to 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.
Science Teachers Association of Texas; Cane Island; Texas Rice; Black Bear Diner; CEMEX; Katy ISD Education Foundation; Wildflower Center of Texas; Katy Prairie Conservancy; Turner Seed Company; USDA/NRCS; Texan by Nature; American Furniture Warehouse; Keep Katy Beautiful, City of Katy; Fast Signs of Katy; Bamert Seed Company; Friendship Garden Club of Katy; Lexus Eco Challenge; M & M Landscaping; Wildlife Habitat Federation; Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation; National Wildlife Federation; Katy ISD Educational Foundation.