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Mitchell Lake Audubon Center is currently restoring approximately 20 acres of pasture land for birds and other wildlife use. Northern Bobwhite and Wild Turkey are still active on property, but encroaching brush and non-native grass species are not conducive to supporting the populations long term as the climate changes. The area has not seen any grazing or grassland management in recent memory with the exception of a burn on an adjacent parcel of land in 2006.
Since our initial management effort in 2006, there has been an increase in the number of neighborhoods and new development in proximity to the center. This traditionally restricted our ability to conduct prescribed burns as a means to control brush encroachment and keep our grassland parcels free of woody vegetation. As part of our new grassland management program, Audubon will work with multiple partners to conduct a prescribed burn, reseeding of native grasses, and ultimately, demonstrate adaptive multi-paddock rotational grazing as a long-term land management tool.
Over five years ago, in an effort to reverse grassland bird decline, Audubon began to explore an ambitious new conservation approach across the central flyway, seeking to create market-based incentives for bird conservation on rangelands by rewarding producers that adopt bird-friendly management practices on their ranches. The focus of these practices is adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing. Long-term studies have shown that AMP grazing improves not only conditions above ground but in our soil as well. Soil organic matter (OM) and cation exchange capacity has been shown to increase up to 1% annually, and it increased soil water infiltration rates from less than 0.5 inches per hour to more than 8 inches per hour within a 5-year period. Bird and other wildlife populations greatly benefit from AMP by diversifying the plant communities.
Mitchell Lake is an ideal site to serve as demonstration area to show the benefits of grassland restoration and rotational grazing systems. As Audubon helps ranches fully implement conservation practices, reduced pollutant and bacteria runoff into streams and rivers will enhance ecosystem benefits.
To combat algae lowering dissolved oxygen levels in the water flowing downstream from the shallow Mitchell Lake on the South Side, the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) is planning to install water-filtering wetland plants and make changes to a dam that will allow the utility to better control water levels. SAWS’ board of trustees in October 2018 approved a $1.3 million contract for designing, managing construction, and operating the project.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has allocated $1.5 million for a feasibility study to determine whether manmade wetlands can help restore the aquatic ecosystem of Mitchell Lake.