Monday, September 26, 2011

Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Project Receives a Grant from TogetherGreen

The Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Project has received another grant which results in complete funding of the budget for the native prairie restoration project which will bring the central tract of Commons Ford Park back to its former tall grass glory. The grant is from TogetherGreen, a joint venture between the National Audubon Society and Toyota. The Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Organization was awarded a grant of $15,000 which will be used to pay a portion of the seed costs. Initial planting is scheduled for the winter of 2011/2012.

TogetherGreen was launched in 2008 in order to fund conservation projects, train environmental leaders, and offer volunteer opportunities that will significantly benefit the environment. The Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Organization is involved in this project with numerous partners including Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Native Prairies Association of Texas, Austin Parks Foundation and Travis Audubon Society. The grant is awarded in recognition of the long-term beneficial effects which the restoration will have on endangered and threatened grassland bird species.

Recently, Stu Wilson, long time Travis Audubon Society member and active birder, as well as co-founder of the Organization, attended the Innovation Grants Training Workshop at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Conference topics included how to keep a project well funded and ways in which to evaluate the success of the project. We are happy to announce that our project seems to be right on track!

Now that the funds are secured, it is time to get down and dirty (quite literally) with the prairie restoration process. The first herbicide treatment of the invasive grasses was done in July. Before planting can commence, we will apply one more herbicide treatment and disc the 40 acre tract in order to break up the sod and destroy any remaining invasive roots.

Thanks so much to TogetherGreen, National Audubon, and Toyota for this grant. Without the generosity of organizations like this, our dreams of restoring Commons Ford Prairie would be much harder, even impossible, to achieve.

To find out more about TogetherGreen, visit them at their website.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Commons Ford PRO to Receive Grant from Austin Parks Foundation

Earlier this week, Austin Parks Foundation advised Commons Ford PRO that it would fully fund its most receipt grant request in the amount of $25,000. This grant ensures that the organization has sufficient funds to purchase the native seed needed for the planned December planting. A BIG THANK YOU to Austin Parks Foundation!

The Austin Parks Foundation (APF) is a non-profit advocacy group that works with volunteers as well as city departments in order to maintain and improve our cities green spaces. Our parks are our inheritance to our future generations. Maintaining the integrity of Austin parks is a big job that cannot be done by one small group alone. Thus, APF awards grants like the one given to the Commons Ford Restoration Project to organizations in order to allow other organizations to plan and make improvements to city parks.

If you would like to get involved with APF, there are several ongoing opportunities available, including Adopt-a-Park programs and trail building and maintenance. See the APF website for more information or to become a member.


The first stage of restoration, removal of mesquites, began in May. Efforts to remove the invasive grasses in the future prairie will begin in mid-July. The park may be closed for a few specific days during the removal process, but should be open during its normal hours on all other days. Signs marking the treatment area will be posted with specific details regarding the treatment process. For more information regarding Commons Ford rules and hours, see the Austin Parks and Recreations departments website. Link

Monday, June 13, 2011

Moving Forward: Prairie Restoration Set to Begin

It has been a very productive month for the Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Project. The wheels of progress have begun to move, taking the project closer to the final goal of removing the invasive plant species that have taken over the prairie and returning it to its historic, native tall grass prairie glory.

This progress is due, partly, to $2,000 raised through Birdathon contributions. Many of those contributions came from Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Organization members. A big THANK YOU to all who donated to this worthy cause. This money will be used immediately in connection with the next phase of the project, the removal of invasives as well as the smaller mesquite.

Mesquite is a native prairie scrub bush that, due to the suppression of fire, has taken over far more than its fair share of the land. In a natural prairie system, scrub plants, such as mesquite, would have been removed periodically when fires burned the prairie. When fire began to be suppressed in the 1800's, however, primarily due to farming, ranching, and a general increase in human population, mesquite was allowed to grow unchecked. This fire suppression led to this thorny scrub brush growing into thick stands, blocking out light for the plants below and becoming a general nuisance for humans and wildlife. The Commons Ford tract exemplifies this unchecked mesquite growth.

Due to its thickness and thorniness, the first phase of any invasive removal must start with clearing the mesquite. While a few mesquite/oak mots and larger trees will remain as habitat and cover for birds and other wildlife, a majority of the mesquite will be cut down and its trunk treated with herbicide in order to kill the roots. Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) personnel will conduct the mesquite removal. It is expected that the park will remain open during the mesquite treatment process, but PARD will place signs about the treatment and the treatment area will be well marked.

Once the mesquite has been cut and treated, the next removal phase will begin. This phase involves removal of the non-native grasses which are primarily King Ranch Bluestem, Bermuda and Johnson grass. Due to the drought and resulting burn ban, this phase will not likely include a prescribed burn. A discing process will be used as a substitute. This process utilizes a tractor-like machine to till the soil, breaking it up and thoroughly uprooting the plants.

While the treatment process will take hard work and may temporarily make the prairie tract look bare, it is all in good cause. By this time next year, instead of looking at scraggly mesquite and King Ranch bluestem, park visitors may be treated to the first signs of new growth including a field of colorful wildflowers!

We would like to thank everyone for their continued support of the project. We will keep you posted on the progress of the invasives removal as it progresses.

Last week the Westlake Picayune printed an interview with Ed Fair and an update about the Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Project.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Birdathon 2011 and the Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Project

It's that time of the year again, when birders all over central Texas brave the humidity and heat of Texas spring to get out and count birds for a cause. Migration season is in full swing and it is possible to see over a hundred species in one day, especially with the keen eyes of our own local Travis Audubon super birders! This year, you can help the Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Project by pledging a Birdathon team.

Each year, Ed Fair and his Bird-a-Thon team "Gone Pishing" head out to count birds in central Texas. On May 7th, 2011 he will be heading out with three other seasoned Audubon birders in order to see how many species can be sighted within a single county - Travis County. This year, all the funds raised by Ed for his Birdathon team will go directly to the Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Project.

This is a critical time for the project. Now that the plant and wildlife surveys have been completed, it is time to get to the business of removing invasive species, prepping the land for seeding, and the seeding itself. While most of the funds needed for the project have been raised from a combination of generous private donations and grant money, the project is still shy of its projected budget. The funds raised by the Birdathon team will help to put the restoration project in full swing!

If you would like to help with the project by sponsoring the "Gone Pishing" Birdathon team, just send us an email at Let us know how much you would like to pledge per species. Once the Birdathon is complete, we will calculate your pledge based on how many species were counted. Last year Ed's team counted 148 species, just to give you an idea of how much to pledge! Alternatively, you are also welcome to simply make a donation in any amount that works for you! Cash, check and credit card donations are accepted. No amount is too large or too small, because everything and anything helps!

Good luck to all of the Birdathon teams! Your passion for wildlife and conservation is what makes projects such as the Commons Ford Grassland Restoration Project possible!

Patagonia "Voice Your Choice" Update

On March 26, Patagonia held an in-store voting day, allowing three organizations to compete for grants from the "Voice Your Choice" program. Set up in the very front of the store was the Commons Ford Restoration Organization booth manned by project volunteers. The team members diligently worked to get as many customers as possible to vote for the project.

In the end all the hard work, handshaking and project pitching paid off. The Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Organization was successful in landing enough votes to receive a $1,500 grant from Patagonia! The grant money will go directly towards funding the restoration project which will begin in earnest this summer.

Thanks to all of you who came out to vote that Saturday afternoon! And thanks to Patagonia for supporting projects like ours with their generous "Voice Your Choice" grant program.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Commons Ford PRO is one of three organizations selected to participate in Patagonia's Voice Your Choice Program. Each organization will present information about its project in the Patagonia Store located at 316 N. Congress. Individuals visiting the store location between March 10 and March 31 will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite project. Grants will be awarded based upon number of votes. Commons Ford PRO will staff a table on Saturday, March 26. We hope that you will drop by for a visit, but most importantly we hope that you will vote in the Patagonia store anytime from March 10 to March 31 (10:00 AM to 7:00 PM).

Virtually all bird and wildlife species that depend on tall grass prairies are in decline. Unless we act, these prairies and species will become but a distant memory. Where the opportunity exists, we must make every effort to restore and protect this important remnant of our national heritage. This challenge is the driving force behind Commons Ford PRO and the Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Project which will make a small but important dent in this decline by restoring a native prairie habitat west of Austin.

Please take the time to support this important project with your vote. For more information about the Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Project visit our website at . To join the organization send a note to Thanks for your consideration and support.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Patagonia Environmental Grant

Ed Fair accepts a $1,000 check from Patagonia representative Justine Beech. The grant was awarded through the Austin store as part of the Patagonia Environmental Grants program.

The Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Organization has the opportunity to receive additional grant funds from Patagonia. Commons Ford PRO is one of three organizations participating in the Voice Your Choice program which runs from March 10 - March 26. Grants of between $1,000-$2,500 are awarded depending upon which organization receives the most votes. Representatives from Commons Ford PRO will be in the Patagonia Austin store located at 316 N. Congress on Saturday, March 26. Come by and visit us that day and cast your vote or visit the store and vote anytime during the March 10 - 26 time period. Voting online should be possible beginning March 10. More details coming soon.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pre-Restoration Prairie Bird Surveys Completed

Pre-restoration prairie bird surveys were completed on the 40 acre tract on Saturday, February 19. The protocol for the surveys was developed by biologists from Balcones Canyonlands Preserve and was very similar to the protocol used by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in connection with Project Prairie Birds. The surveys are conducted three times over a four week period. This is a transect survey in that three straight line transects of 100 meters each are used. The survey team carries two 30 meter PVC pipes (see photos) and walks each transect using the pipe to flush any birds.

Interestingly, the surveys turning up only a SINGLE bird. A Sedge Wren was flushed during the second of the three surveys.

The paucity of birds existing in the future prairie tract underscores the significance of the restoration project. In fact, the data is essentially what we expected. Invasive plants equals no prairie birds. Prairie birds should be in this field and it is with full expectation that we will see a significant increase once the prairie is established.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Thanks to our volunteers we completed our winter pre-restoration plan surveys on Saturday, January 23. We also completed the first of three prairie bird surveys and expect to complete the additional two by the end of February.

We are also pleased to announce that we have received a $1,000 grant from Patagonia through its retail store in Austin. We also have the chance to receive between $1,000 - $2,500 in additional grant funds through Patagonia's Voice Your Vote Program. We are one of three organizations selected to staff a table at the Patagonia store located at 314 N. Congress Ave. in Austin. We will be in the store on Saturday, March 26. The grants are determined by votes received in the store beginning on Saturday, March 12. Please drop by the store any time (and particularly on March 26) and vote for our organization.