Endangered Tall Grass Prairie Protected (MN)

Polk County, MN, 7/31/02 – The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and The Nature Conservancy announced today the acquisition and protection of 1,080 acres of land including 450 acres of virgin tall grass prairie, the most endangered natural community in Minnesota. Located in northwest Minnesota in Polk County, the land will create a 3.5-mile long corridor connecting the Conservancy’s Pankratz Prairie Preserve to Chicog State Wildlife Management Area. This purchase is the first phase of a larger 2,800-acre protection effort facilitated by TPL and involving the Minnesota DNR, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, and private landowners.

Funding for the purchase came from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund which created the Wildlife Corridors program, a statewide program designed to combine the conservation expertise of non-profit and government agencies throughout Minnesota to acquire and protect land critical to our wildlife habitat network. The Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCMR) was instrumental in prioritizing the funding for this project.

“These are the results state leaders envisioned when they created the Wildlife Corridors program,” noted Susan Schmidt, Minnesota Director of the Trust for Public Land. “So much can be accomplished through partnerships like this. Wildlife Corridors gives flexibility to conservation groups and the state to protect key lands gaining a higher quality habitat network in an economically sound way.”

TPL will sell the northern parcel of the property to The Nature Conservancy for native seed harvest for use at Glacial Ridge, the largest prairie-wetland restoration project in U.S. history, and, to date, the Conservancy’s largest project (24,500 acres) in Minnesota. Glacial Ridge lies just to the northeast of this newly acquired prairie.

“The Nature Conservancy will ultimately transfer the parcel to the Minnesota DNR for use as a wildlife management area,” said Ron Nargang, state director for the group. “This acquisition is a classic win/win. It protects a key prairie parcel, boosts our ability to complete restorations at Glacial Ridge, and will preserve the historic public hunting opportunities on the property,” he added.

In April, the Polk County Board voted to support this conservation effort. Facilitating the 2,800-acre protection effort, TPL worked with the each agency and the landowners to protect the land and help determine the appropriate land steward for each of the three sections. Because of the properties location along the prehistoric shoreline, there are substantial gravel deposits left intact just below the surface. This effort will ensure that the existing virgin prairie survives and habitat improvements are made throughout the property.

The Wildlife Corridors Project was established by the 2001 Legislature as recommended by the Legislative Commission of Minnesota Resources to restore the fragmented landscape corridors that connect high quality habitats for the purpose of sustaining fish, wildlife and plant populations. Funding is from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Under a broad partnership, the Wildlife Corridors project provides for a statewide coordination of existing federal, state and private land and water conservation programs. The project focuses existing programs and resources towards identified habitat corridors for the benefit of all of Minnesota.

The Nature Conservancy’s mission is to preserve the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth, by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. The Minnesota Chapter has helped protect more than 400,000 acres in its 44-year history, and manages a system of 56 nature preserves statewide. For more information visit nature.org, or call 1-888-2-JOIN-TNC.

Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land conserves land for people to improve the quality of life in our communities and to protect our natural and historic resources for future generations. Nationwide, the Trust for Public Land has helped conserve more than a million acres valued at over $2 billion. In Minnesota, the Trust for Public Land has helped protect more than 21,000 acres of land. TPL is actively working around Minnesota to provide more parks and green space in communities facing the pressures of growth.