The Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area (MRPHA) is a 95,000+ acre grassland landscape in Dane and Iowa counties in southwest Wisconsin. The area provides habitat for 14 rare and declining grassland bird species and contains more than 60 prairie remnants, representing one of the highest concentrations of native grasslands in the Midwest. The agricultural history of the area has helped keep the landscape much as it was when the first settlers saw it and has made it possible for plants and animals like grassland birds, which have disappeared in more developed parts of the Midwest, to survive.
The MRPHA has been identified as the highest priority for landscape-scale grassland protection and management in Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and represents one of the best opportunities in the Midwest to protect prairie remnants and area sensitive species, such as grassland birds.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading global conservation organization working around the world to protect the land and water on which all life depends.
The Conservancy has been working to protect wild places and wildlife in the MRPHA since 1964 when we received a donation of three acres of land from Stacy and Mildred Collins in honor of their father, Christian W. Thousand, who farmed the nearby land for many years. This was the first land donation ever made to The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin.
Develop/coordinate multi-partner grassland landscape project that conserves native prairie communities surrounded by lands that remain open and covered with grass in some form, including lands enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, lightly grazed pastures, hay fields mowed after July 15, prairie, or savanna. Grassland birds, in particular, need open ridgetops and large areas of treeless grassland to survive.
Work with a coalition of partners—which includes the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pheasants Forever, Blue Mounds Area Project, The Prairie Enthusiasts, Driftless Area Land Conservancy, and Southwest Badger Resource, Conservation and Development Council—to provide landowners who want to maintain or convert their agricultural lands to grassland for cultural, aesthetic, recreational, or ecological reasons with options to do so.
As of November 12, 2012, the Conservancy has helped protect a total of 2,290 acres in the Military Ridge at these two preserves and at other places like Mounds View Prairie. This figure includes lands owned and managed by the Conservancy, conservation easements, government co-ops and assists.
Nature Conservancy preserves are open for hiking, hunting, birding, nature study, photography and other types of recreation.
Note that hunting for white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and pheasant is allowed at Military Ridge preserves during the regular posted seasons, with no prior permission from the Conservancy required. Dogs are allowed off-leash for pheasant hunting during pheasant season. Dogs must be on-leash the rest of the year, especially during the breeding bird season. Click here to go to the DNR's hunting season date website.
If you have any questions about The Nature Conservancy’s work at the Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area, please call Steve Richter at (608) 251-8140 or stop by our office in Madison.