For those of you who are actively practicing or are planning on taking on the endeavour of planting a prairie or restoring a remnant prairie. There is a new book out to help you. Covering just about every facet of prairie re-construction and maintenance, The Tallgrass Prairie Center Guide to Prairie Restoration in the Upper Midwest is a great tool and in my opinion, the best single publication written on the subject. As prairie restoration can often be a group effort, so is this book. The books four authors consist of the full time staff at the Tallgrass Prairie Center in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Combining almost 100 years of prairie restoration experience, Daryl Smith, Dave Williams, Greg Houseal and Kirk Henderson provide detailed tips that could only be previously found during note sharing with other restoration ecologists or tucked away in the back of the mind of a well seasoned prairie restorer.
I particularly liked the clear difference that they make between a prairie reconstruction and a prairie remnant restoration. Two disciplines that have often overlapped in the past even though they require two distinctly different approaches. In part 4 they write about special cases. This is also well needed. It is quite common for a prairie contractor to be put in situations that are not large tracts of rural open space. Here they describe: Prairie in Public Spaces, Roadsides and Other Erodible Sites and Small Prairie Plantings. A very nice epilogue by Daryl Watson, finishes the book; The Future of Tallgrass Restoration. It would appear that prairie restoration has become a science of it’s own and is as respectable as any in the scientific field.
If this book has a comparable it would be The Tallgrass Restoration Handbook (Island Press 1997). A good book also, it covers management techniques for savanna and woodlands as well but reads as a fragmented collection of essays rather than a flowing concise how-to. In many ways it’s represents prairie restoration and where we stood at the timing of these two publications. So much has changed in the past 15 years, the stark difference would also be found in leading books in other industries such as the The Internet or Solar Energy.
Overall, this book is very good and it is nice to see factual data (or similar findings) with some of my personal observation and tricks that I have kept to myself. I was quite surprised to see my name referenced in the introduction. This book is not for the novice, but if someone has made the commitment to reconstruct and/or repair a prairie, volunteer for a prairie restoration group, or would like to be amazed by the thought processes that prairie ecologists have attained lately. This book is a must own. Also, this book is paired with the Guide to Seed and Seedling Identification, which is equally as thorough and could be considered as a separate chapter on its own.