Minneapolis | December 12, 2011
The Nature Conservancy announced today that it has protected 417 acres of grassland in northwestern Minnesota. The lands were acquired recently under the Minnesota Prairie Recovery Project, an innovative effort to conserve and manage the state’s remaining prairies.
Funding for the 97-acre property in Clay County and the 320-acre property in Polk County was provided by the Outdoor Heritage Fund, which was created under the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, through an appropriation by the Minnesota Legislature as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.
The properties will be open to the public for outdoor recreation including hunting, birding and hiking. This is consistent with requirements under the constitutional language that established the Outdoor Heritage Fund.
“Minnesota’s last and best remaining prairies must be protected,” said Peggy Ladner, director of The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota. “They provide excellent wildlife habitat and great opportunities for outdoor recreation.”
The new properties are adjacent to existing natural areas, affording a higher level of protection for both native plants and wildlife.
The 97-acre property in Clay County links the Conservancy’s 5,820-acre Bluestem Prairie Preserve and its 480-acre Margherita Preserve-Audubon Prairie. It is also home to prairie chickens and other grassland birds as well as game species including deer and pheasants.
The 320-acre property in Polk County is adjacent to Mentor Prairie Wildlife Management Area and is a mixture of native prairie and grassland enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program. Protecting this property increases the amount of conservation land surrounding Mentor Prairie WMA. This benefits not only native plants and wildlife and people who hunt, hike and bird-watch, but it will also make it easier to use prescribed fire to keep the land in good natural condition.
In collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and local partners, the Conservancy will manage the properties with prescribed burns and conservation grazing in order to preserve the diversity of native plants and wildlife. Prairie plants historically were grazed by wildlife such as bison.
The Conservancy will pay property taxes on both properties.
Prior to European settlement, there were more than 18 million acres of 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 converted.
In Minnesota,The Nature Conservancy has helped conserve more than 650,000 acres since 1958. The Conservancy has 23,000 members in Minnesota and offices in Minneapolis, St. Joseph, Glyndon, Duluth, Karlstad, Mentor and Preston. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org/minnesota.
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.