Historical ecology can be used to model past environments and identify reference conditions for restoration efforts. The primary burrowing crayfish Distocambarus crockeri exhibits a high degree of habitat specialization and is largely limited to open canopied terrestrial habitats maintained along roadsides, utility rights-of-way, and agricultural field edges within a portion of the South Carolina piedmont, USA. Crayfish abundance, vegetation structure, and negative binomial regression were used to model the habitat of D. crockeri. Modeling indicated that within a community-defined landscape patch context, D. crockeri was a prairie specialist. Historical descriptions of areas within the species’ range indicated that prairie-like habitats (piedmont prairies) were a regular component of the landscape. The congruence between habitat models and historical data indicate that prairie habitat was a natural component of the historic piedmont landscape and that the habitat specificity of D. crockeri contained spatial information about this lost landscape component.