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Crew tackles Oak Savanna invaders

Work near Southview High aided by grant

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Elizabeth Dunson, foreground, joins Matt Pierce and Erika Buri, Olander Park System conservation manager, in spraying invasive species at the Southview Oak Savanna.

BLADE PHOTO/ Kelly McLendon. Enlarge

Wearing camouflage or khaki pants with rain boots, several workers from the Nature Conservancy put on backpack sprayers last week to help eradicate invasive species from the lands of the Southview Oak Savanna, directly behind Southview High School on Sylvania Avenue.

The work, made possible through a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant to help clean up toxins, restore wetlands, and combat invasive species, is aided by the Olander Park System.

The workers also manage brush cutting and spraying for other weeds that might have a negative impact.

"We're wildlife freedom fighters," said Matt Pierce, a Northview High School graduate who started as a volunteer with the organization. Soon, he switched careers and took a job with the organization. Although he was stung by a bee during the conservation day, he didn't seem deterred, joking about the incident.

Erika Buri, conservation manager for the park system, helps coordinate the conservation days and participates in the work. She said the area is the only intact oak savanna inside the city.

In addition to regular maintenance work, seed collection is done to try to propagate the environment's native species, to help reverse any trends of species loss and to protect water quality and decrease flooding.

Some invasive species have the ability to take over plots of land and prey on native plants, which alters the ecosystem.

"We've been managing the [Oak Savanna] site for about 10 to 12 years," Ms. Buri said. She said the seven-acre savanna intersects with the University Parks Bike Trail, which makes it accessible for visits.

"I like to encourage people to visit this site. If you're on the bike trail, take a minute," she said.

Ms. Buri said educational boards near the site give information about the savanna and its plants.

Those who work on the conservation effort said they feel they have a purpose.

"We do restoration work," Sunshine Love said. "Even though we cut down trees." In some areas, cutting down trees can be important for protecting the ecosystem.

Many of the workers from the Nature Conservancy travel across the United States, working on projects like the one at the Oak Savanna.

More information about the savanna is available at olanderpark.com.

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