UNT conservation work recently received the boost of a grant over $17,000 from the Anita Berry Martin Memorial Fund at the North Texas Community Foundation. Richard Freiheit, the restoration manager who oversees the University of North Texas' operations at LLELA, says the new funding will assist in restoring approximately 85 acres of wild prairie at the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area (LLELA), to the benefit of wildlife and education opportunities alike.
"These 85 acres have been encroached upon by trees, so the first order of business is to thin out the area, " said Richard. "Controlled burns will help to clear away years of growth so that sunlight can reach the ground to stimulate seed germination. In areas where little grassland plants remain, seeds and live plants will be added."
Established at the North Texas Community Foundation in 2013, the Anita Berry Martin Memorial Fund has awarded over $594,000 in grants to organizations working in the areas of equine therapy, equine welfare, and land conservation. Funding will go to staff support, native prairie seeds, and equipment needed to prepare the area for successful new growth.
"The site was chosen for several reasons," said Richard. "Very little work had been done in this area previously, and without fire, the prairie was slowly giving way to trees. We are grateful for this opportunity to start turning back the hands of the 'ecological clock' in order to make room for native prairie species to thrive."
Proximity to Lewisville ISD's Outdoor Learning Area was also a deciding factor, so elementary students can be exposed to ecological conservation efforts and begin to understand the importance of preservation. Richard is hopeful that this will mean some of those children will grow up to pursue futures in environmental ecology and conservation, with any luck, at the University of North Texas.
Efforts began on the area on January 4, and much of the work currently is being performed by small numbers of socially-distant individual volunteers, since pandemic-related restrictions mean that some of the usual groups are unable to help at this time.
For those who would like to follow the project or find volunteer information, visit the Friends of LLELA Facebook page.
LLELA is a precious resource to the DFW residents and University of North Texas researchers and students; the area hosts countless activities and opportunities for the public to engage and interact with nature. Visit their website at llela.org to learn more, and for more information, or if you are considering making a donation to support our prairie and wildlife restoration projects, please contact Meghan Dours in the College of Science.
About the North Texas Community Foundation
North Texas Community Foundation is dedicated to strengthening our 11-county region through effective philanthropy and civic leadership around key community issues. We serve local individuals, families and corporations by helping them achieve their charitable goals in a meaningful way - during and beyond their lifetimes. The Community Foundation is privileged to work in collaboration with our fundholders, their trusted professional advisors, nonprofit partners and civic leaders to make sure North Texas is strong for generations to come. The Community Foundation made grants totaling $27 million in 2019. For more information, visit www.northtexascf.org.