Plover Prairie is truly unique in the plethora of plant and animal species that call this wet prairie home. The site’s newest resident, the greater prairie chicken, is being restored through cooperative efforts with private and public agencies, and is now becoming more common to observe. Located in the heart of the Minnesota River Valley, Plover Prairie joins thousands of acres of state and federally owned lands to create a large block of habitat for plants and animals.
The preserve is adjacent to Lac qui Parle and Pyramid wildlife management areas, which are managed by the state, and two miles southeast of Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge.
From Bellingham, take State Highway 75 about three miles north to County Road 38. Turn east, and drive for two miles. Turn north, and drive for one mile. At this intersection, the preserve is located on the northwest and northeast corners, and is marked by a large wood sign.
To visit the west unit, turn west and go two miles to State Highway 75. Turn north for one-half mile. The main sign and entrance are located on the east side of the highway.
Plover Prairie is a complex of wet lowland prairie feathering into mesic and dry prairie on higher ground. Among the scattered boulders and granite outcrops - the area's signature land feature - can be found large populations of small white lady's slippers, prickly pear cactus, Carolina foxtail, slender milk vetch, lotus milk vetch, water hyssop, mudwort, mousetail and soft goldenrod.
Along with the introduction of the prairie chicken comes the ability to observe the prairies’ long-time residents such as the 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. One of the butterflies residing at the preserve is the state-threatened Dakota skipper. A large number of mammals live on the preserve, including northern grasshopper mouse, plains pocket mouse, prairie vole, western harvest mouse, coyote and badger.
Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
Because of the Conservancy's close working relationships with state and federal officials, private landowners and conservation organizations, it often works in concert to effect great change. In the case of Plover Prairie, the Conservancy acquired this land as part of the Northern Prairie Wetlands Project of the Mellon National Wetlands Program.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
To keep this land healthy means the Conservancy is working with many partners, including the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Prairie Chicken Society, USFWS, private landowners and others.
Some of the tactics being used are grassland easements, woody species control, prescribed fire, prescribed grazing, and restoration. Recently, the Conservancy secured an easement on 240 acres that tie together the east and west units of the preserve. This agreement protects more than two miles of linked habitat for the future.