Identified in the 1925 State Conservation Plan as an important area for prairie chickens, south central Iowa once was 95 percent rolling prairie. Intensive use of these grasslands has encouraged exotic pasture grasses and the lack of fire has altered the “openness” of the region. Nevertheless, this area harbors large prairie remnants.
Birds known to breed in this area include greater prairie chickens, short-eared owls, northern harriers, upland sandpipers, Henslow’s sparrows and sedge wrens. To survive, many of these species require grasslands in large, open, treeless landscapes.
Native prairies are being plowed in this area—lost forever and disappearing before our eyes. To help preserve Iowa’s prairie heritage, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources owns 1,000 acres at Kellerton Bird Conservation Area and 2,000 acres at Ringgold Wildlife Area. The Conservancy purchased 320 acres in Iowa and, with the Missouri Department of Conservation, protected 4,000 acres across the border in Missouri.
Because plants and animals don’t recognize state lines, the Conservancy is connecting prairie chicken habitat between Iowa and Missouri to create a project area of more then 80,000 acres total of protected prairie and working grasslands. Iowa protects around 13,000 acres of this important grassland habitat while Missouri protects about 70,000 acres.