Missourians Making a Difference: Interview with Jerod Huebner

April 12, 2024 | Missourians Making a Difference, News

Missourians Making a Difference: Jerod Huebner, Director of Prairie Management, Missouri Prairie Foundation

How long have you been with the Missouri Prairie Foundation (MPF) and what are your primary responsibilities?

I have been with MPF for 8.5 years. I am in charge of stewardship for all of MPF’s 35 properties, which total 4,900 acres across Missouri. This includes applying for and administering grants, writing contracts for several contractors that carry out a significant amount of work on our properties, and coordinating with our dedicated volunteers, whose participation in prescribed burns and other stewardship activities is invaluable.

What is your professional background?

I started working with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) in 2005, while enrolled at the University of Missouri-Columbia. I received a Bachelor of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife. I worked in the MDC Central region for approximately eight years and the MPF St. Louis region as a wildlife biologist for MDC for two years before joining MPF.

What are some of the invasive plant control projects you have led over the years? Why are they important?

I currently lead all invasive species efforts on MPF sites. A number of MPF prairies are extremely rich in native plant species, with very few invasive plants, in part because of the current and past work that I and other MPF staff have done to look for and treat invasive plants when found—not once, but several times each growing season.

This can be tedious work, but it is much better to be vigilant and have fewer invasives to treat than to let invasives spread and seriously degrade a prairie. Seeing the diversity and abundance of native plants on our properties, including several that can survive nowhere else but on unplowed prairie, as well as the insects and other animals that depend on them, makes the invasive control work worthwhile.

I led similar efforts while working for the MDC St. Louis region, focusing primarily on bush honeysuckle. Working with regional staff, we eradicated hundreds of acres of honeysuckle via aerial spraying, foliar spraying, prescribed burning, and follow-up chemical treatment.

Additionally, we removed 15 acres of dense native (but aggressive) eastern red cedar on Labarque Creek Conservation Area from a sandstone glade. We cut and piled cedar slash for burning to minimize fire scarring on the glade. After many hours of intense work, the glade was fully cleared of cedar and returned to historical conditions, which was satisfying. 

How do you prioritize invasive plant species work on MPF prairies—what is your strategy?

 On MPF prairies, sericea lespedeza is currently the greatest threat. My annual top priority for sericea scouting and treatment is our highest quality remnant prairies. Once these sites are initially treated, I will move on to lesser-quality planted sites and more degraded remnants. During this time, we also have contractors treating multiple sites for sericea. Later in the growing season, I follow up spraying performed by contractors with my own, as well as making multiple passes on previously treated sites.

While treating sericea I treat many other undesirable/invasive species such as native, invading tree sprouts, honeysuckle, Johnson grass, and teasel, among many others. This ensures MPF prairies remain among the highest quality prairies in the state. Fall through spring, other species such as fescue, honeysuckle, winter creeper and invasive thistle basal rosettes can be treated.

Please share one of your favorite invasive plant control success stories.

When MPF purchased the Carver Prairie property in 2015, many invasive species were scattered throughout its 163 acres, including non-native thistles, sericea lespedeza, honeysuckle, tree-of-heaven, Johnson grass, and spotted knapweed. Over the last nine years, we have managed to eliminate many of these species from the interior of the property as well as completed a 35-acre prairie reconstruction that is coming along nicely after about five years post-planting. The remaining invasives are only along the perimeter of the property, and the site is in maintenance mode at this point. Upcoming work on Carver Prairie will include woodland thinning to restore the original, open nature of the woodland portion of the property to historical conditions. 

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