Vast expanses of grass and sky once covered about 110 million acres in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. These grasslands are home to some of our most iconic animals from the majestic bison to the black-footed ferret and the greater prairie chicken.
Today grasslands are the most imperiled habitat on Earth, with a rate of destruction exceeding that of tropical rainforests. Temperate grasslands alone, like those in the Midwest and Great Plains, are being lost at a rate eight times faster than they are being protected.
The many benefits grasslands provide are rarely recognized. They pull pollutants from the air and water, help prevent flooding and soil erosion, and capture and store carbon dioxide. Prairie grasses offer nourishing forage to grazing animals like bison and cattle. For hunters, bird-watchers and wildflower enthusiasts, prairies are priceless places to enjoy nature. North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota still retain some of the highest value, most intact prairies on Earth.
The Nature Conservancy is working with ranchers, public agencies and communities to protect 11.5 million acres of the best remaining prairie in the three states. We are sharing our expertise in controlled fire, grazing and invasive species management to help restore the vitality of grasslands on public and private lands. And, we are helping catalyze the growth of a new, grass-based economy in core grassland areas to help sustain them into the future.
Grassland Conservation Program Director Neal Feeken’s focus is finding innovative ways to help protect native grasslands in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
The Conservancy uses fire to restore native grasslands and provide many benefits to people and nature.
Prairie Ecologist Marissa Ahlering’s research helps guide the Conservancy’s work to protect grassland plants, animals and habitats in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
We’re working with landowners and other conservation organizations to protect the remaining 90,000 acres of native prairie and savanna in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan outlines a strategy to protect the state’s remaining native prairies, grasslands and wetlands.
The Dakota Grassland Conservation Area is an ambitious effort to protect millions of acres of grassland in the Prairie Pothole Region of North and South Dakota.
The Prairie Coteau Habitat Partnership is conserving grassland habitat in South Dakota and Minnesota.
Glacial Ridge is the largest prairie-wetland restoration in U.S. history and created what is now Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge.
This map shows the lands and waters protected by The Nature Conservancy with funding from Minnesota's Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.
The Conservancy has brought bison back to the prairie on its lands in North and South Dakota where the disturbance caused by their grazing is helping keep the grasslands healthy.
At Chippewa Prairie in Minnesota, we’re using GPS tracking to see the effect that cattle grazing and fire combined are having on the health of the prairie.
We’re helping restore populations of the rare black-footed ferret in Conata Basin in South Dakota.