Zimmerman Prairie will be expanded
The Zimmerman Prairie will be expanded as an oak savanna to the southeast.

Prairie and Oak Savanna Restoration

The restoration of native prairie and oak savanna habitats has always been a priority for Schmeeckle Reserve. The one-acre Zimmerman Prairie adjacent to the visitor center parking lot, once a grassy backyard, was planted in 1986-1987. The 4.5-acre Berard Oaks was restored into an oak savanna habitat in 2000, although only a small portion of the area was planted.

In January 2020, Schmeeckle received a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue restoration efforts. The project will restore about 14.5 acres by expanding the Zimmerman Prairie and Berard Oaks savanna, and planting native seed in the Zimmerman Prairie, Berard Oaks, and Lake Prairie. The expansions will occur in wooded areas infected and threatened by oak wilt disease.

The project is being partially funded through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, coordinated by Brendan Woodall, USFWS Wisconsin Private Lands Biologist. Other private landowners or organizations in the area who would like to discuss restoration options are welcome to call Brendan at 608-444-1689.

UW-Stevens Point students and Schmeeckle volunteers and staff will assist with all aspects of the restoration.

Click here to view photos of the habitat restoration

Goals of the Restoration

The goal of this project is to restore and improve about 14.5 acres of prairie and oak savanna habitat in areas threatened by oak wilt disease. This will be accomplished by:

  • Cutting red oaks and other smaller trees and shrubs. The red oak trees in the project areas are susceptible to oak wilt disease and would likely die in the next several years. The removal of trees and shrubs opens up the canopy to create ideal conditions for prairie grasses and flowers to grow. Trees were marked by Forestry Professor Michael Demchik and his students. The trees were cut by Schmeeckle staff, volunteers, UWSP students, and Fish and Wildlife Service staff during the fall/winter of 2020 and 2021.
  • Prescribed burns. In preparation for successful planting, the existing groundcover and detritus needs to be reduced, giving seeds a chance to grow. Prescribed burns were conducted by the student-led UWSP Fire Crew in November 2020.
  • Herbicide existing ground vegetation. In new prairie and oak savanna areas, the existing ground vegetation will be removed through the application of herbicide. This is necessary to kill off any invasive and weedy plants that might otherwise take over the new habitats. Existing prairie plantings will remain. Herbicide application will take place in spring and summer of 2021.
  • Planting seed. In fall 2021, the areas will be planted with a native prairie seed mixture selected for the uniqueness of each site.
  • Education. The restoration project on campus is ideal for sharing with students and the public. Students and volunteers will assist with the initial restoration and in maintaining the site in the future.

Map of the Restoration Sites

Click here to view a PDF version of the map.


The following groups have supported this restoration project through generous donations, funding, and volunteer assistance. For more information about supporting this and other projects, please visit our Support page.

  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program grant ($6,650)
  • Friends of Schmeeckle Reserve (volunteer support, funding grant match)
  • Michael Demchik, Ph.D., Professor of Silviculture (providing technical assistance, coordinating student crews)
  • UW-Stevens Point classes and student organizations (Restoration Field Techniques class, UWSP Fire Crew, UWSP Society for Ecological Restoration)