The prairies and oak woodlands that were once common in South Puget Sound are now almost gone. The Nature Conservancy works with the Center for Natural Lands Management and many other partners to protect and restore these irreplaceable treasures for the colorful wildflowers, butterflies, and birds that call them home—and for the people who treasure them.
Today, only 3 percent of our native prairies remain. Grasslands are among the least protected and most threatened habitat types on Earth. Like grasslands around the world, the South Sound Prairies have supported human life for countless generations, while also providing critical habitat for multitudes of plants and animals.
The Nature Conservancy began work to conserve the fragile habitats of the South Puget Sound region nearly two decades ago. In 2011, the Conservancy transferred this program to The Center for Natural Lands Management, which is continuing the Conservancy’s conservation efforts in South Puget Sound in close collaboration with partners.
The Center, accredited by the Land Trust Alliance, is dedicated to conserving native species, their habitats and functioning ecosystems in perpetuity. The Center currently manages more than 34,000 acres distributed over more than 70 wildlife preserves in the western United States. These support more than 100 special status species, including more than 50 listed by state and federal agencies as threatened or endangered.
- The Center for Natural Lands Management is working with public and private partners to establish a network of parks and preserves that will safeguard this irreplaceable natural treasure.
- The Center and its partners have an active prescribed fire program on the prairies. The program was recently selected as a demonstration site for the national Fire Learning Network.
- Conservation professionals, aided by dozens of volunteers, are working tirelessly to restore the historic prairies. Every week volunteers meet to collect seeds, remove Scotch broom and conifers, and propagate native plants. People of all ages have contributed thousands of hours and planted more than a million native plants, restoring and enhancing several thousand acres.
- Along with its partners, The Nature Conservancy continues to advocate for funding to protect more prairie lands. Each year a little more prairie is reclaimed, and public appreciation for this imperiled landscape continues to deepen.
South Puget Sound Prairies
Click on map to enlarge image.
Washington state manages two large prairie remnants in the South Sound that are open to the public:
Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve: To visit this 637-acre natural area, take the I-5 exit for Littlerock (south of Olympia). Drive west through the town of Littlerock and continue on 128th Avenue SW until it ends at an intersection with Waddell Creek Road. Turn right on Waddell Creek Road. The Mima Mounds entrance will be on the left.
Scatter Creek Wildlife Area: To get to this 1,200-acre preserve, take the I-5 exit for Littlerock (south of Olympia). Drive west one block, then turn south on Case Road. Turn right on 180th Street, which leads to the wildlife area parking lot.
Don’t miss the annual Prairie Appreciation Day in early May – a hit with the whole family.
The South Sound Prairie Working Group offers a wealth of information online, including photos and directions. And don't forget to check out the Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve Butterfly Guide for a sneak peek of the butterflies in the region.