This region is famous for its greater prairie chickens. A 20-foot-tall statue of one stands along Highway 52 in the town of Rothsay. You can see the real-life bird at Richard M. & Mathilde Rice Elliott Prairie, which is part of a network of preserves where this chicken-sized bird continues to live.
The Conservancy dubbed greater prairie chicken one of the "Unlucky 13" grassland birds because its numbers have dwindled. Best known for their spectacular courtship and mating rituals, it once numbered in the millions. Its populations in many parts of the United States are imperiled. Minnesota’s populations of this bird, however, are rebounding.
This preserve, along with the nearby Western Prairie Scientific and Natural Area, combine to create 817 acres of habitat for this bird.
Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
This preserve consists of diverse, unplowed prairie habitat. Richard M. & Mathilde Rice Elliott SNA has a history of haying, a common practice that maintains excellent plant diversity. This site is located within the Agassiz Beach Ridges landscape, a high priority area for conservation within the Northern Tallgrass Prairie Ecoregion.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
Conservancy stewardship staff manage this preserve using controlled fire and occasional, patchy mowing. The preserve is broken into four fire units. No more than one of these units is burned at any time, allowing for ample nesting cover and refugia for wildlife. The fire is a beneficial management tool that reduces the dominance of brush and enhances the vigor of many native prairie plant species.