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Our restoration activities focus on abating the impact of invasive species on systems through restoring hydrology, re-introducing fire, and controlling invasive species. 

Historically, hand tools such as loppers and hand saws are used to cut buckthorn stems. Over several years the technique for buckthorn removal was refined. For example, Conservancy staff perfected the selective application of herbicides to kill the adult plant and prevent resprouting. A notable innovation at Ives Road Fen Preserve during this time was the design of PVC herbicide applicator wands to deliver herbicide to cut buckthorn stumps. Today, this wand design is widely used among the restoration community on many invasive species in both wetlands and uplands.

Spot-burning – using a propane torch mounted on a backpack frame – to control the numerous buckthorn seedlings sprouting from the seed bank has been used by the Conservancy since 1996. In the early 2000’s, Conservancy staff began using power tools such as clearing saws to maximize efficiency and clear buckthorn rapidly. The process of cutting buckthorn, treating stems with herbicide, and stacking the brush into piles to be burned later is now a standard procedure across many fen project sites.

Remediation of hydrology is often required to restore the flow of surface and groundwater, which are critical processes in fens. Disruption of fen hydrology can occur with the installation of drainage ditches and drain tiles for agriculture that altered the sheet flow process, lowered the water table and caused soil erosion, all of which can cause proliferation of invasive plants. Drainage systems may be removed using heavy equipment or plugged. The effects of these labor intensive, arduous projects were a raised and stabilized water table.
Prescribed fires have also been used to keep restored areas open at fen and savanna sites. In the spring of 1996, Conservancy staff conducted what was likely the first ecological prescribed burn in a prairie fen at any site in Michigan. Herbaceous plant species such as grasses, sedges and forbs provide the fine fuel necessary to carry fire in a fen. Fire is used to encourage native herbaceous plants and control the growth of invasive plants.

Relevant documents:
"Methods and Guidelines for Assessing Restoration Progress in Prairie Fens Using Coarse-Level Metrics"