The Urban Woods and Prairies Initiative is a joint project between Audubon Dakota, Fargo Parks District, Buffalo- Red River Watershed District and the cities of Fargo and Moorhead to restore grassland and woodland areas in Fargo and Moorhead. Currently there is nearly 1,000 acres along the Red River enrolled within the project that were idle flood buyout sites overrun with non-native grasses and trees. These areas, when managed properly and planted with native vegetation, will restore important ecological functions to this area of the Red River Valley, provide excellent habitat for birds and wildlife species, while also offering natural areas for the residents of Fargo. The important ecological functions restored by the project along the 28 mile stretch of the Red River includes increased water quality, resiliency of the shoreline and wetland water carrying capacity as a result of more appropriate vegetation species, and wetland restorations, which will significantly help flood control within these areas of Fargo.
In the summer of 2015, the first 200 acres were seeded with native grasses and flowers. Woodland management practices were also conducted over the summer. The prairie restoration of the sites within the Urban Woods and Prairies Initiative will take approximately 3-5 years of monitoring and maintenance before becoming fully established prairies. The woodlands at each site will be enhanced by the removal of woody invasive species such as buckthorn and prickly ash.
Species such as Blue-winged Teal, Gadwalls, Mallards, and Great Blue Herons will utilize the newly created, restored and enhanced wetland basins while the native prairie will support declining grassland birds such as Bobolinks, Upland Sandpipers, and Meadowlarks. Over 140 species of birds will be able to inhabit and thrive in these restored areas. Native plantings will also be more conducive to pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, as well as provide an opportunity for environmental engagement and education. After the initial establishment, Audubon Dakota and partners will work to maintain these areas and maximize benefits to both wildlife and the community. As urban Fargo expands, it is important to conserve these critical natural habitat areas to preserve North Dakota’s cultural heritage of land ethic.