Temperate grasslands are the least protected major habitat type on earth. Efforts to restore a tallgrass prairie landscape and provide critical corridors for wildlife are moving forward through intensive restoration of prairie systems and natural communities in the Grand River Grasslands, which incorporates more than 70,000 acres and spans parts of Missouri and Iowa.
On the wide-open expanses of Dunn Ranch Prairie and Pawnee Prairie, prairie chickens still perform their colorful spring "booming", the upland sandpiper's ghostly call carries in the wind, regal fritillary butterflies alight on gorgeous coneflowers, and bison roam across rolling hills. Grasslands are important not only for native species, but also for people. They clean our water, protect us from flooding, and store carbon in their roots.
In the entire Central Tallgrass Prairie Ecoregion, an area spanning 110,000 square miles and parts of six states, Dunn Ranch Prairie represents possibly the last chance to conserve a living landscape of tallgrass prairie on deep soil. Of the original 2,281-acre plot purchased by the Conservancy in 1999, more than 1,000 acres have never been plowed.
WHAT TNC IS DOING
TNC is working closely with the Missouri Department of Conservation, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and other partners to restore a functional tallgrass prairie. Controlled burning, conservation grazing, and woody reduction are being used on a large scale to abate the degradation of habitat caused by invasive species, such as fescue and Osage orange and locust trees. Dunn Ranch Prairie has become a hub for cutting-edge technology and research; more than a dozen studies, including bison and prairie chicken tracking and pollinator health research, are ongoing at the site.
The area is marked by high vegetation from late spring through fall. Large rolling hills make for a moderate hike. It is frequently windy, and spring can be very cool and breezy on the prairie. In summer it is often very hot, with little shade. Some areas of the preserve may be temporarily closed due to restoration efforts and while the bison units are closed to the public they can be seen from other areas of the preserve.
Limited hunting is allowed at Dunn Ranch Prairie. See hunting resources below or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.