The Nature Conservancy announced today that it has protected 240 acres of grassland in the Upper Minnesota River Valley. The land was acquired recently under the Minnesota Prairie Recovery Project, an innovative effort to conserve and manage the state’s remaining prairies.
Funding for the 240-acre property in Swift 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 property is 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.
“The Upper Minnesota River Valley is a beautiful natural landscape and one of the most important areas in the state for waterfowl so it’s popular with both birders and hunters,” said Peggy Ladner, director of The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota. “Protecting prairies and wetlands near the river also helps clean and store water and prevent erosion.”
The new property is adjacent to existing natural areas, affording a higher level of protection for both native plants and wildlife.
The 240-acre property in Swift County will be added to the Conservancy’s Chippewa Prairie Preserve, increasing the preserve’s size by more than 20 percent to 1,383 acres. Chippewa Prairie is home to wet, tallgrass and gravel prairie, as well as rare prairie butterflies, grassland birds and waterfowl. The short-eared owl, a species of special concern in Minnesota, can also be seen in the summer flying low over the preserve in search of rodents.
The addition to Chippewa Prairie is a mixture of native prairie and grassland but will need restoration work to remove trees, brush and invasive species to return the property to a more natural condition. The land was at risk of conversion as it had been withdrawn from the federal Conservation Reserve Program. Protecting this property increases the amount of conservation land surrounding both Chippewa Prairie and Lac qui Parle WMA. Conserving natural areas benefits not only native plants and wildlife but also helps protect water quality, prevent erosion and provides the public with additional opportunities to hunt, hike and enjoy wildlife.
In collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and local partners, the Conservancy will manage Chippewa Prairie 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 the new property. The Conservancy is also seeking private donations to help pay for stewardship costs.
Prior to European settlement, there were more than 18 million acres of prairie in the state. Only about 220,000 acres or approximately 1 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 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.
Photo of Chippewa Prairie addition: © Joe Blastick/TNC
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.