968-acre oak savanna restoration at national wildlife refuge in Minnesota

One of the largest tracts of oak savanna in the Midwest lies about an hour north of the Twin Cities (Minnesota) within 30,700-acre Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, where one of the most extensive habitat restoration projects in its 50-year history started this fall.

The most visible part of the 968-acre, $520,000 undertaking began in October with a tree harvest, which will continue through March.

On 486 acres targeted for an oak savanna restoration, work will continue into 2017 as crews remove non-native pine plantations, thin red oak stands, clear invasive shrubs and establish native plants and grasses.

On the surrounding oak woodlands and the St. Francis River corridor, crews will bring tree species back into balance and eliminate invasives.

The habitat is globally imperiled. We can plant pine everywhere. We can’t have oak savanna everywhere. People think about the redwood forests or the Amazon. People don’t think about this type of habitat,Steve Karel, refuge manager, said during a tour of the site.

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