By: Jonathan D. Steffen, former intern with the Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust.

The Guckenberg-Sturm Preserve (also known as Stroebe Island Marsh) is owned and managed by the Northeast Wisconsin Land trust and encompasses an area of 48 acres located in the Village of Fox Crossing (formerly the Town of Menasha). In the last year, the preserve has undergone many restoration efforts.

Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust staff and volunteers have had tremendous success removing invasive species such as garlic mustard and common buckthorn at the preserve. However, the successful removal of these invasive species has given way to a new invasive—reed canary grass—that has begun to take root and spread, particularly in the more disturbed and erosion-prone areas. Without the addition of native seeds to the seed bank, the Guckenberg-Sturm may have been facing a tenuous and difficult restoration further down the road as a result of this grass.

However, a grant from the Natural Resources Foundation’s C.D. Besadny Grant Program has allowed us to purchase a weed trimmer, gloves, garbage bags, as well as various native woodland seed mixes from Prairie Moon Nursery (Winona, MN) in order to more successfully manage the restoration process. After all, if the restoration is implemented correctly, the native woodland seed mix will yield gorgeous blooms throughout the growing season that will effectively compete with and hopefully smother the remaining invasive plants.

Invasive canary reed grass at Guckenberg-Sturm Preserve.

Native plants such as wild blue phlox, bishop’s cap, columbine, wild geranium, Solomon’s plume, dutchman’s breeches and Virginia bluebells, Jacob’s ladder, jack-in-the-pulpit, early meadow rue, Short’s aster, zig zag goldenrod, tall bellflower, and sweet Joe Pye weed are expected to add quite the splash of color to the preserve. Other species such as Virginia hoary mountain mint, purple coneflower, false indigo, bee balm, and woodland sunflower were added to the seed bank as well.

We’ve also been planting thousands of native plant plugs donated to Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust by Stone Silo Prairie Gardens (De Pere, WI) throughout the shadier, wooded, and disturbed areas of the wetland. Some of these plugs included common milkweed, compass plants, porcupine sedge, and blue aster.

Additionally, we have sought advice for invasive control from Andy Leith of Legacy Land Restoration, LLC based in Oshkosh. In the future we will likely be using his advice to continue clearing invasive plants and to work with adjacent land owners of the Guckenberg-Sturm to control the spread of invasive plants such as the Canary Reed Grass. One adjacent land owner to the south of the Guckenberg-Sturm, Wild Ones, has begun their own restoration efforts on their property by mowing the canary reed grass and planting common milkweed to create a butterfly garden.

NEWLT Board Member, Todd Needham, uses a weed wrench to remove invasive common buckthorn.

With help from the C.D. Besadny Grant, the entire region encompassing the Guckenberg-Sturm Preserve may contain thousands of native plants in the coming years. In addition to the natural spread of native species, our restoration efforts at the Guckenberg-Sturm Preserve will also continue into the future. The restoration of this preserve is categorically necessary for erosion control, soil enrichment, organic carbon storage, and increased biodiversity via habitat expansion – especially among the pollinators and aquatic fauna. It is our hope that the beauty of the natives and the ecological services they provide will be obvious at the Guckenberg-Sturm for many generations to come and the C. D. Besadny Grant helps to ensure that outcome will be possible!