30 Steps to take to achieve 99.5% native plant cover,
for non-riparian native grassland revegetation and grassland management standards.

Copyright ® 2012 by Craig Carlton Dremann, co-owner of the Reveg Edge
Inventing licensed ecological restoration technologies for grasslands for 42 years.
P.O. Box 361, Redwood City, CA 94064 (650) 325-7333

A talk given at the March 20, 2012 San Mateo County, California quarterly Weed Management Area meeting in Redwood City at the County Agricultural Commissioner's office on Heller Street.



ESSENTIAL = Must be done for every project.

NO = Do not do this without a lot of research, because the technique may not achieve high successes or may cause failures.

NEVER = Means never do this on any grassland restoration or management project.


1.) ESSENTIAL = NATIVE SPECIES for native areas. Always use native species when restoring native grasslands

2.) NEVER = NO EXOTICS. Never ever use any exotic species, even as "nurse" plants.

3.) ESSENTIAL = MATCH NATIVES TO SITE. Always use local native species that belong on the site, that you determine exist there already, from conducting a pre-project survey.

4.) NO = Do not introduce a native species that you do not record it in your survey, that is already growing within 4 miles of the project site, unless you can find a record, like a specimen in an herbarium, that the plant once existed in the area.

5.) ESSENTIAL = NEED PROVEN WEED MANAGEMENT AND RESTORATION TECHNIQUES TO WORK WITH. Should start with restoration techniques that have proven to produce rapid and high quality performance standards for grasslands, like 99.5% native cover within 180 days or less.

6.) ESSENTIAL = EITHER BUY OR INVENT THOSE TECHNIQUES. If you do not have those high quality standards in hand, or cannot find them in the open source literature, you must license them from other professionals or invent them yourself through test plot work.

7.) ESSENTIAL = SMALL SCALE TEST PLOTS. Every project's techniques, sowing rates, etc. should be proven out a year ahead of the project, with small scale test plots mimicking what you are going to try and accomplish on the larger scale project. Please, DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.


Test-pots

EXSITU TEST POTS, 5" diameter 1/2 gallon plastic pots with soil from a potential native grasslands restoration site in Riverside County for the Stephens Kangaroo Rat, put in pots on November first, and photographed on February 21.

LEFT: The control, where no management was done, with weed seeds in the soil germinated at the rate of about four annual weed grass seedlings per square inch.

RIGHT: Weeds seedlings were controlled as they germinated, and California poppy seeds sown along with fertilizers, and produced 100% native cover by New Years Day, and are about two inches tall by February 21.


8.) ESSENTIAL = NEVER SKIP THE TEST-PLOT PHASE, and go directly to the main project. The small scale test plots do not need to be very big, the largest I use for the insitu test plot is one by two meters for each treatment.

Do many plots to test different species and many different sowing rates, and you can set up a hundred different plots in one afternoon if you have pre-measured your seeds, fertilizers, mulches, etc.

Also, you can take the top four inches of soil from a site, and set up exsitu test pots at the office, and do different sowing rates and treatments in those. The smallest exsitu pot size I like to use, is the four inch square pot.

9.) ESSENTIAL = NO MAIN PROJECT UNLESS TEST PLOTS PROVE TECHNIQUE WORKS FIRST. If your small scale test plots do not produce 99.5% native cover within 180 days or less, then DO NOT START the main project until your test plots can achieve that speed and high quality first.

10.) ESSENTIAL = LESS THAN 99.5% COVER IS FAILURE. Do not accept any techniques offered for the main project, if the test plots produce less than 99.5% native cover within 180 days.

11.) ESSENTIAL = GERMINATION TESTS ON SEEDS. All native seeds sown, must be tested for germination within 60 days prior to sowing.

12.) ESSENTIAL = DEMAND THE ZERO-ZERO-ZERO STANDARD. All native seeds sow, must be free of weed, noxious weed and "other crop" seeds.

"Other crop" means any other agricultural seeds that could be mixed in, and it is essential that you have zero for all of those three items. If there is the smallest percentage of either three, have the seed company supplying it, reclean the seed for you until it is down to zero on all three.

13.) ESSENTIAL = CONTAINER GROWN, ALWAYS BARE-ROOT PLANTS. Never plant out container grown plants from containers, liners, or plugs without knocking the potting soil from around the roots first. Always bare-root the plants as you are planting them, to remove the potting soil around roots, that could wick moisture away from the roots in summer.

14.) ESSENTIAL = FERTILIZERS. Always use fertilizers when planting out native plants or native seeds. The kinds and amounts of fertilizers are determined by doing soil N-P-K tests.

15.) ESSENTIAL = FERTILIZER TESTS. Always take from the site, the top two inches of soil minus the mulch or duff layer, and send a quart to the Soil & Plant Lab in Santa Clara and ask for an A-01 test, or send your sample to some other lab that checks for N-P-K. You can see pictures where fertilizers were not used and the seedlings died, and when the right amount of fertilizer was added to the planting, at http://www.ecoseeds.com/good.example.html

16.) NEVER = NEVER SOW NATIVE SEED MIXES. The native species will fight each other. Better to give each individual species its own space, planting them in a mosaic.

17.) ESSENTIAL = WHEN SOWING MORE THAN ONE SPECIES. SOW IN SWATHS or mosaics. Never use seed mixes, always sow in mosaics.

18.) ESSENTIAL = LEARN ABOUT PLANT ALLELOPATHY. All plants as they grow, give off natural herbicide chemicals. Learn how the native plants interact with each other, and the natives with the weeds, and use that knowledge to gain the advantage when doing a project.

For example, Yellow star thistle and cheatgrass are weak plants, that can be easily controlled by planting back, the local native plants that produce stronger allelochemicals, that are able to permanently suppress those weeds.

19.) NEVER = NEVER, EVER BURN a native grassland west of the Rockies mountains. Weeds in arid grassland situations can potentially regrow and cover the open ground created by a fire, faster than the natives can. The use of fire, as quick, cheap and dramatic as it is, can also very quickly destroy your wildflower fields and native grasslands like it did at the Mid-Peninsula Open Space Russian Ridge preserve in California, at http://www.ecoseeds.com/invent.html

20.) NEVER = NEVER GRAZE a grassland with domesticated animals anywhere in North America. When you take the animals off, they walk away with essential nutrients in their bones, and grazing starts a one-way mining operation that can only be corrected by bringing their bones back after they are slaughtered. Also any native grazing animals that are killed in the area, like deer, elk or moose, should be dressed on site, and their bones left to keep the phosphorus in their bones within the local ecosystem.

21.) NEVER = NEVER TILL a native grassland because it can awaken dormant weed seeds buried long ago. Use other method to get rid of weeds, like herbicides, mowing, mulching, etc. that does not disturb the soil, or destroy the animals burrows, bumble bee hives and native ant colonies, etc.

22.) NEVER = NEVER DRILL-SEED native seeds, because that method does not plant the seeds densely enough in areas with high weed populations, like California. If you have more than a few weeds per square meter, always broadcast sow your seeds. You can see where drill-seeded seeds have failed four times over ten years of attempts and cost $225,000 per acre for the project, producing only 28% native cover at http://www.ecoseeds.com/road.test.html

23.) ESSENTIAL = EXPECT HIGH SOWING RATES for natives. Expect to have to invest in a lot of native seeds per acre, like 100 pounds or more, especially in areas where you have more than a few weeds per square meter.

24.) ESSENTIAL = CHECK FOR DORMANT NATIVE SEEDS ON SITE. Always check for native dormant seeds still in the soil, underneath the exotics, by using small scale test plots, and hand weeding all of the exotics, and removing all of their thatch for a year, and see if anything native comes up on its own.

25.) ESSENTIAL = GET RID OF ALL WEEDS FIRST before replanting natives, without the use of grazing, burning, or tilling. Use allelochemicals, herbicides, mowing and mulches instead.

26.) ESSENTIAL = EXPECT A LOT OF FAILURES. Until you can get your small scale test plots to give you 99.5% native cover within 180 days or less, and you want to invent your restoration technologies on your own, expect to plant several hundred to perhaps thousands of test plots to achieve that standard. Or you could license some grassland restoration technologies that have already been invented, and only need to plant a few test plots to check those technologies.

27.) ESSENTIAL = ANNUAL VEGETATION COVER TRANSECTS OF YOUR GRASSLAND AREAS*. If you a public agency with grasslands to manage anywhere in North America, set up some annual vegetation transects that are very quick and simple to do, like a linear toe-point (Evans & Love, 1957) which only takes a few minutes to do each year. This annual census will help indicate what trend your grassland is going in. Also use the linear toe-point for any projects, before and after you do them, to measure the effects of your treatments or techniques.

28.) ESSENTIAL = MEASURE THE COSTS OF PROJECTS, FOR EVERY ONE PERCENTAGE INCREASE IN NATIVE COVER. The current cost for grasslands restoration in California was established over the last decade by Caltrans and UC Davis, when they got one acre of native grassland back to 28% native cover, at the cost of $245,000 per acre.

That means to get each one percentage of native cover for that project, cost $8,000 per acre. So that potentially could cost $800,000 per acre to get a solid 99.5% native cover on that site. By measuring the cost per acre for every one percentage native cover increase, you can add a cost component as another layer to the performance standards pciture.

That is how all of your projects could record your progress, with both the test plots and the whole project. What was the cost per acre of labor, seeds, fertilizers, etc. to get each one percentage increase of native cover? If you used volunteer labor, you need to factor in those costs, as if you had paid professionals at the going local rate of pay.

29.) ESSENTIAL = BUDGET, BUDGET, BUDGET for restoration and management costs. Most pubic agencies in the past, thought if they bought some grassland habitats, all was needed was to build some trails, put in a parking lot and maybe a porta-potty, keep the fences repaired, and the grassland ecosystem and wildflower fields could take care of themselves, at no cost.

Unfortunately with the depauperate conditions of our grassland ecosystems in the United States in general and the arid West in particular, and with our weed-infested grasslands here in California, if you purchase or own a grassland, significant costs must be budgeted annually to manage and restore that weed-infested ecosystem.

A rule of thumb could be, to multiply the value of the land per acre by a minimum of four and that could be the starting price to manage that acre of grassland.

For weedy grasslands in California, depending on how weed-infested your land is, you need to multiply by higher factors. Less than 50% weed-infested, multiply the land value per acre by 10, and more than 50% weed-infested, multiply the land value by 30, and budget that amount over a five year period, to end up with a native grassland that can survive over time.

30.) ESSENTIAL = PLUG UP ALL OF THE PLANT FAMILY NICHES. Grasslands contain more than grasses, and that is one of the biggest mistakes made when managing or restoring those habitats, is not paying attention to the other plant families that make up the ecosystem. Like the bean family, sunflower family, Indian paintbrush family, poppy family, mint family, etc. Unless these niches are filled with members of the local native plant families, then weeds from the same plant families, can find an empty place to grow.



Edgewood County Park, in Redwood City at the Cañada Road entrance, on the I-280 side of the park along the Clarkia trail, looking north in March 2012.

*VEGETATION COVER TRANSECTS OF GRASSLAND AREAS. Examples of measurements using the Evans and Love 1957 toe-point transect method including the grassland in the park shown above, plus photos can be seen at http://www.ecoseeds.com/WMA.html


RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED, in the hopes of all grasslands projects in North America will be able to achieve 99.5% native cover within 180 days or less, as a regular and expected result, in the near future.



Updated March 28, 2012