MINNEAPOLIS – The Nature Conservancy announced today that it has acquired 240 acres of grassland in Lac Qui Parle County in western Minnesota with funding from the state’s Outdoor Heritage Fund. A mix of native prairie and cropland, the property will be restored to link more than two miles of wildlife habitat in the heart of the Minnesota River Valley.
This is the third property acquired through the Conservancy’s Minnesota Prairie Recovery Project, an innovative effort to conserve and manage the state’s remaining prairies. Like most of the Conservancy’s preserves in Minnesota, the property will be open to the public for outdoor recreation including hunting, birding and hiking. This is also consistent with requirements under the constitutional language that established the Outdoor Heritage Fund, which was created as a result of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.
The property is located within a larger landscape of protected lands running along the upper Minnesota River from Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge to the west and Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area to the east. The property is located between two units of the Conservancy’s 655-acre Plover Prairie preserve.
The Conservancy will manage the land with prescribed burns and conservation grazing in order to maintain and increase the diversity of native plants on the property. Prairie plants historically were grazed by wildlife such as bison. Carefully planned grazing by cattle emulates that history. The property has been used for pasture in the past. Limited, continued grazing will keep the property as working land that also preserves the health and biological diversity of native prairies.
Prior to European settlement, there were more than 18 million acres of tallgrass prairie in the state. Only about 220,000 acres or one percent remain today, according to the Minnesota County Biological Survey. About half of the state’s remaining prairies are unprotected and at risk of being plowed up or paved over.
“We must act now to conserve Minnesota’s last and best prairies,” said Peggy Ladner, director of The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota. “Grasslands help provide clean water and wildlife habitat. And because the land was acquired with Legacy amendment funds, it will be open to the public for a wide variety of outdoor recreation.”
The property is located in a landscape that includes scattered boulders and granite outcrops as well as small white lady’s slippers, prickly pear cactus, slender milk vetch, and many other prairie plants. Plover Prairie provides habitat for upland sandpiper and marbled godwit, listed as species of special concern by the state, loggerhead shrike, Wilson's phalarope, short-eared owl and a number of nesting waterfowl. Greater prairie chickens are being reintroduced in the area through cooperative efforts with public and private agencies.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
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