The Only Organization Working Exclusively to Conserve and Restore

California's Native Grasslands

Grassland Restoration and Management Resources

Measuring Success

Luong, JC, DM Press, KD Holl. 2023. Lessons learned from interdisciplinary evaluation of long-term restoration outcomes on 37 restored coastal grasslands in California. Biological Conservation Vol 280, April 2023. Accessed March 3, 2023.

General Management

Barry S, Larson S, George M. 2020 (2006). California Native Grasslands: A Historical Perspective--A guide for developing realistic restoration objectives. Grasslands, A Publication of the Native Grassland Association Vol 30(1):5-10. 

Restoration Manual for Annual Grassland Systems in California, ANR Publication 8575, June 2017, written by former CNGA Director, Elise Gornish and Julea Shaw.

A comprehensive ecological application guide for effective restoration in grassland and rangeland systems for California. Developed for use by practitioners of any experience level to inform grassland restoration design and application. 

Includes sections on:

  • Identifying your Restoration Goals - enhancing biodiversity, reducing invasive plant cover, improving pollinator and wildlife habitat, providing forage for livestock, erosion control, and carbon storage
  • Pre-Vegetation Techniques - invasive species management
  • Plant Materials - choosing species, sourcing seeds & plants, seed mixes, seeding amounts
  • Revegetation Techniques
  • Species--descriptions of over 80 grassland species with pros and cons
  • Species Listed by Region and Restoration Goal - with tables for 7 goals for each of 7 areas: southern, desert, central coast, valley, northern coast, northern interior, and basin

Native Grasslands of Coastal California: Landowners Guide to Native Grasses and Management. Hastings Natural History Reservation. 

Former Hastings Reserve Director, Mark Stromberg, and Paul Kephart of Rana Creek Habitat Restoration Inc. put together a detailed packet of information on the native California grasslands and how to handle them as land managers. Hastings Natural History Preserve has made this available for download as eight PDFs.

  1. Introduction & Background to Landowners Guide to Native Grass Enhancement and Restoration
  2. Start Again or Decide to Manage a Native Relict?
  3. Selected Invasive Weeds and Their Management in Native Grasslands - A detailed photo guide
  4. Native Grassland Reestablishment - A step-by-step guide on when and how to plant
  5. Selected Non-native Grasses and Grasslands Plants - Recognizing the problem plants
  6. Selected Native Perennial Grasses - Recognizing the beneficial natives
  7. Appendix - Contacts, Consultants, Seed Sources, Tools, etc
  8. References - Cited references and further readings
    Relevant articles: Stromberg, Kephart, Yadon 2002  Coastal Grasslands Madrono (PDF)Bring Back Native Grasses 2005 (PDF)Kephart 2001 Resource Management Demonstration at Russian Ridge Preserve (PDF).

Restoration Ecology Volume 28, Issue S3. August 2020. Special Issue: Standards for Native Seeds in Ecological Restoration (Open access)

Restoration Ecology Volume 27, No S1.  International Principles and Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration. Second Edition. (pp. S1-S46). GD Gann et al. 

How to Manage and Restore Coastal Prairie: Thoughts From the FieldCalifornia’s Coastal Prairie. A project of the Sonoma Marin Coastal Grasslands Working Group by Claudia Luke, Diana (Immel) Jeffery,  and Kathleen Kraft. Last modified June 2013.  (Webpage under construction by CNGA). 

Restoration and RevegetationTools 

Revegetation and Restoration Planting Tools: An In-the-Field Perspective. Native Plants Journal. Spring 2004, Pages 44-42, Author: Steven Kloetzel

Abstract: Planting propagules for restoration projects requires specialized tools. Several hand and power tools are discussed, as well as appropriate applications and installation rates. Equipment costs and sources are detailed.

Article Download: 5-1NPJ34-42.pdf (PDF document)

Keywords: Planting methods, seedling installation, cutting installation, hoedad, planting hoe, dibble, expandable stinger, planting bar, augers, power hammer, Hy-Gro Tiller

Managing for Wildlife: Birds, Pollinators, Butterflies and Beneficial Insects

Seed choice affects diversity and activity of pollinators - Flowering times differ among ecotypes influencing pollinator visitation

Bucharova, A, Lampei, C, Conrady, M, et al. Plant provenance affects pollinator network: Implications for ecological restoration. Journal of Applied Ecology.   2021; 00: 1– 11. (Open Access)

Synthesis and applications. Plant provenances substantially differ in their interactions with local pollinators. Therefore, the selection of plant provenance should be considered when planning restoration projects for the support of pollinators.

Bees, Pollinators, Insects

Griffin SR, B Bruninga-Socolar, J Gibbs (2020). Bee communities in restored prairies are structured by landscape and management, not local floral resources. Basic and Applied Ecology 50: 144-154.

Hofmann MM, Renner SS (2020) One-year-old flower strips already support a quarter of a city’s bee species. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 75: 87-95.

Tonietto, RK & DJ Larkin. 2017. Habitat restoration benefits wild bees: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Ecology Vol.  55 (2).

Forister Matthew L., Emma M. Pelton, Scott H. Black. 2019. Declines in insect abundance and diversity: We know enough to act now. Conservation Science and Practice (online) First published: 22 June 2019.

Grassland disturbance increases monarch butterfly oviposition and decreases arthropod predator abundance. Biological Conservation, Volume 233, May 2019, Pages 185-192 by Nathan L.Haan, Douglas A.Landis. Also see Mowing for MonarchsScience Direct's summary of above article. March 12, 2019.

Establishing Pollinator Meadows from Seed, Xerces Society, 2013. 

Grassland Birds

Enhancing Grassland Restoration for Grassland Birds, Rodd Kelsey, Grasslands Winter 2010

Keeping Grasslands Healthy: Using birds to measure the health of your California Grassland (PDF) NRCS, Point Blue Conservation Science (Accessed June 9, 2021).

Grassland and rangeland management for grassland birds. NRCS, Wildlife Habitat Management Institute,1999. See page 5, Grassland and Rangeland Management for birds. Page 7 has a summary table of habitat requirements for grassland-nesting birds.

Pollinators in Natural Areas: A Primer on Habitat Management, Xerces Society, 2014. Contains information on managing grazing, fire, mowing, and insecticides.  See page 12 for a graph with the recommended management window for North American bees and bumblebees. 

California Partners in Flight and the Point Reyes Bird Observatory recommends avoiding mowing or burning until after July when breeding season is over (pp 22-23)

Livestock grazing supports native plants and songbirds in a California annual grassland. PLoS ONE 12(6), 2017: By Sasha Gennet, Erica Spotswood, Michele Hammond, James W. Bartolome.  An 8-year study in central California finds livestock grazing can be compatible with or support grassland bird conservation. --Michele Hammond is a current serving on the CNGA Board of Directors. 

Weed Control

Native perennial grasses, once established, provide long-term suppression of noxious weeds, even in highly-favorable years.   -Valerie Eviner, Cal-IPC Conference October 2020.

Methods for Managing Weeds in Wildlands: Weed Control User Tool (WeedCUT) This decision support tool provides land managers with guidance on a range of methods for managing invasive plants in wildlands using non-chemical approaches exclusively, for situations when use of herbicides is restricted or not desired.

Cal-IPC 2020. Best Management Practices for Non-Chemical Weed Control. Report to California Department of Pesticide Regulation under grant number 18-PML-G002. 291 pp.


  • Removing Whole Plants (5 techniques)
  • Controlling Plants by Cutting (6 techniques)
  • Controlling Plants in Place  (3 techniques)
  • Covering Plants with Sheet Barriers  (3 techniques)
  • Controlling Plants at a Plant Community Scale (4 techniques)
  • Biological Control (general introduction and descriptions of agents for 18 weed species/species groups)

UC Weed Research and Information Center

Managing Weeds in Grasslands and Rangelands webinar

Selected Yellow Starthistle Treatment Options, Livestock & Range News, by Devii R. Rao, September 20, 2017. Grazing, mowing, herbicide options to control yellow starthistle. 

Use of Fire as a Tool for Controlling Invasive Plants -2006, California Invasive Plant Council. By Joseph M. DiTomaso, Matthew L. Brooks, Edith B. Allen, and Ralph Minnich. Edited by Joseph M. DiTomaso and Douglas W. Johnson

This report captures the current state of knowledge on the use of fire to manage invasive plants in wildlands, so that better information can facilitate improved decision making when considering the use of prescribed burning for the management of invasive plants.

Valliere, J.M., Balch, S., Bell, C., Contreras, C. and Hilbig, B.E. (2019), Repeated mowing to restore remnant native grasslands invaded by nonnative annual grasses: upsides and downsides above and below ground. Restoration Ecology, 27: 261 268.

The study focused on using mowing as a restoration technique in California's Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve to combat nonnative annual grass invasion. The researchers aimed to determine if repeated mowing, timed to target nonnative grasses before they produced seeds, would reduce their presence and benefit native species, particularly the Stipa pulchra. After monitoring for four years and conducting a seed bank analysis after five years, they found that mowing successfully decreased nonnative grass cover and helped some native species like S. pulchra. However, there was an unintended increase in nonnative forb species in the mowed areas, suggesting that while mowing can control nonnative grasses and boost native bunchgrasses, it may also promote nonnative forb species.


Claassen Vic, J Hanson. 2010. Putting down roots: Regenerating disturbed soils to sustain vegetation. Grasslands Vol. 20, No.2:4-5; 11-14.

USDA Soils Tools 

Erosion Control

Caltrans Erosion Control Toolbox

Erosion Repair on Your Ranch

CNGA Member, River Ridge Ranch, shared their video workshops with us on using low-tech, DIY, holistic erosion repair and streambed restoration. Topics are in chapters on culverts, one-rock dams, Zuni bowls, log drops, and log mats.  Available at:

Soil Community and Amendments

Soil Amendments

Brown CS, KJ Rice, V Claassen. 2000. The effects of soil amendments and mulches on establishment of California native perennial grasses: a summary of selected results. Grasslands Vol 10 No 1. 

Gravuer K, Gennet S, Throop HL. Organic amendment additions to rangelands: A meta‐analysis of multiple ecosystem outcomes. Glob Change Biol. 2018;00:1–19.

Read the Abstract

Interest in land application of organic amendments—such as biosolids, composts, and manures—is growing due to their potential to increase soil carbon and help mitigate climate change, as well as to support soil health and regenerative agriculture. While organic amendments are predominantly applied to croplands, their application is increasingly proposed on relatively arid rangelands that do not typically receive fertilizers or other inputs, creating unique concerns for outcomes such as native plant diversity and water quality. To maximize environmental benefits and minimize potential harms, we must understand how soil, water, and plant communities respond to particular amendments and site conditions. We conducted a global meta‐ analysis of 92 studies in which organic amendments had been added to arid, semiarid, or Mediterranean rangelands. We found that organic amendments, on average, provide some environmental benefits (increased soil carbon, soil water holding capacity, aboveground net primary productivity, and plant tissue nitrogen; decreased runoff quantity), as well as some environmental harms (increased concentrations of soil lead, runoff nitrate, and runoff phosphorus; increased soil CO2 emissions). Published data were inadequate to fully assess impacts to native plant communities. In our models, adding higher amounts of amendment benefitted four outcomes and harmed two outcomes, whereas adding amendments with higher nitrogen concentrations benefitted two outcomes and harmed four outcomes. This suggests that trade‐offs among outcomes are inevitable; however, applying low‐N amendments was consistent with both maximizing benefits and minimizing harms. Short study time frames (median 1–2 years), limited geographic scope, and, for some outcomes, few published studies limit longer‐term inferences from these models. Nevertheless, they provide a starting point to develop site‐specific amendment application strategies aimed toward realizing the potential of this practice to contribute to climate change mitigation while minimizing negative impacts on other environmental goals.

Not All Micorrhizal Amendments are Equal

Native plant abundance, diversity, and richness increases in prairie restoration with field inoculation density of native mycorrhizal amendments. Liz Kozial, Timothy E. Crews, & James D. Bever. 2020. Restoration Ecology Early View. 

The authors found that native mycorrhizal inocula increased native plant abundance, richness, and community diversity. 

A Field Test of Commercial Soil Microbial Treatments on Native Grasslands Restoration, Lora B Perkins & Joe R. Bennett. Restoration Ecology 26 (5).

The authors found soil microbial additives had no effect on seedling performance during the 2 years after restoration. They conclude that the treatments are designed for agriculture or home gardens and are not appropriate for wildland systems. 

Climate Change and Grasslands

Bagne, K.; Ford, P.; Reeves, M. (November 2012). Grasslands and climate change. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Climate Change Resource Center.

  • Climate suitable for California valley grasslands is likely to have significant declines, shifting towards oak woodlands and desert scrub, along with a high proportion of no analog climates (i.e., projected climates do not match any contemporary biomes).



Native perennial bunchgrasses have undergone steep declines across much of California but persist in sizable populations along the northern coast. The longer rainy season and less severe summer drought in this region are thought to facilitate bunchgrass persistence in the face of extensive invasion by exotic annual species. Changes in the seasonality and intensity of precipitation that accompany global climate change could critically influence efforts to conserve and restore these plants in California grasslands. We established a large-scale manipulation of rainfall in a protected Mendocino County grassland to investigate how predicted shifts in precipitation affect the performance of three native perennial bunchgrass species in exotic-dominated stands. We added seeds, plugs, and mature tussocks of Danthonia californicaElymus glaucus, and Elymus multisetus into replicate plots of exotic annual grassland and subjected the plots to one of three experimental precipitation regimes: increased winter rainfall, increased spring rainfall, and ambient rainfall. Responses to rainfall addition varied widely by age class and species and depended heavily on seasonal timing of the increase. Establishment from seed was rare for all three species and showed little response to water addition, likely due to concomitant changes in the surrounding communities. Production of exotic annual grasses rose markedly following repeated extensions of the rainy season, and while established bunchgrasses benefited despite this change, new plants could not establish into thickening stands of exotic vegetation. In contrast, survival was high for transplanted plugs and tussocks of all three species across all three rainfall treatments, suggesting that plugs and tussocks can survive a wide range of climatic conditions and high local densities of exotic annual grasses. Restoration approaches focused on these life stages may be most robust to changing climate. Transplanted individuals can provide a continual source of propagules to surrounding areas that then recruit during years in which conditions in the physical and biological environment are amenable to seedling establishment.

Other Restoration  Resources

Digging In- A guide to Community-Based Habitat Restoration, 2008. California Coastal Commission

Although the focus is on Coastal Habitats, this PDF manual is packed with information that can be apply to any habitat.

"Digging In is a delightful, clearly written and resource-rich read. It is an invaluable tool for ecological restorationists working in any habitat. I liked it so much I used it as an online text in my restoration ecology class at University of California, Irvine."
--excerpt from book review by Dr. Peter Bowler, UC Irvine, in Ecological Restoration, Dec '09

Grassland Restoration & Management Bibliographies

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