Oak Savanna Restoration

Oak savannas are a grassland biome resembling a prairie-parkland with widely-spaced, open-grown large oaks. Oak savannas were found throughout southern Wisconsin and the Midwest prior to European settlement.

As a plant community, oak savannas transition into deciduous forests, prairies and wetlands. Along with prairies, oak savannas have been lost via agricultural use, introduction of invasive species, suppression of historic wildfires, conversion to deciduous forest and habitat fragmentation.

Today, oak savannas are designated as a federally and globally endangered ecosystem. Less than 0.1% or ~500 acres of high-quality oak savanna remain in Wisconsin. Oak savannas and prairies are far more endangered than the rainforests. And we can help them easier because in Wisconsin, they are our backyards.

The main practices in oak-savanna restoration are: 

1. Logging and removal of invasive woody plant species 
2. Releasing large oaks in the canopy and understory from competition
3. Treatment and control of any invasive herbaceous plant species
4. Monitoring of seed bank and herbaceous layer for remnant plant species
5. Reintroduction of local genotype native plant species and management of community with prescribed burning

There are many benefits to restoring your woods to an oak savanna ecosystem. Besides increasing your land's value and health, there are tax benefits and grants earmarked for oak savanna restoration by the federal government. Other benefits include increased natural beauty, wildlife diversity and ecological resilience.

Oak savannas are home to an abundance of wildlife. Once the restoration and management of your woods begins, aesthetics and wildlife diversity will dramatically increase. And as the canopy reopens, Wisconsin's historic community of plants and animals will be attracted to your land, an enchanting oak savanna.

Contact ERS about restoring an oak savanna in your backyard, “back 40” or watershed today.