Beginning in 2008, the LBJWC began working with the National Park Service (NPS) across the southwest to create restoration plans for five parks in the NPS’ Southern Plains Inventory and Monitoring Network (SOPN). These sites – in Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado –include Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site (NHS), Bents Old Fort NHS, Washita Battlefield NHS, Chickasaw National Recreation Area and the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.
Short-grass and mixed-grass prairie was historically the dominant ecosystem throughout the western plains, yet prairie fragments at these parks have been degraded by row crops, erosion, invasive exotics, livestock and human traffic, and woody encroachment. Prairie restoration and the health of the grassland community are the most important natural resource issues facing these parks. Prairie restoration is also crucial to the park’s cultural resources as the enabling legislation for these parks requires that these parks restore the ecosystems back to the condition which was present during the historical ecological condition. Thus, the restoration of the cultural landscape is vital to the interpretation of these parks.
The LBJWC provided initial site assessments at each park and technical training in the process of prairie restoration which included 2 day workshops at each site. LBJWC also trained park staff in the process of conducting a site assessment and designing a program of restoration designed to achieve specific park goals. After these visits and training sessions, LBJWC produced restoration plans for each park that provide the parks with appropriate tools to restore the ecosystems at their sites, demonstrate successful ecological restoration techniques, enhance historical and recreational landscape value, preserve the cultural landscape for park stakeholders, reintroduce wildlife, provide a refugium for native species whose populations are in decline, and provide opportunities for multicultural research which supports the natural and cultural knowledge. The goal is to address how to restore the native ecosystem, while also enhancing the human relationship with the landscape through restoration and historic narratives.