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Published December 13 2011

97 acres of prairie to be preserved in Clay County

MOORHEAD – Property linking two large parcels of Nature Conservancy land in Clay County has been purchased through the Minnesota Prairie Recovery Project.

The 97-acre property was acquired for preservation through the Outdoor Heritage Fund and will link the 5,820-acre Bluestem Prairie Preserve and the 480-acre Margherita Preserve-Audubon Prairie.

The two preserves are southwest of Moorhead near Buffalo River State Park.

The land is home to prairie chickens and other grassland birds, as well as wild game such as deer and pheasants.

The property will be open to the public for outdoor recreation such as hunting, birding and biking.

The Outdoor Heritage Fund will also purchase a 320-acre property in Polk County adjacent to Mentor Prairie Wildlife Management Area. It is a mixture of native prairie and grassland enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program.

The Conservancy will pay property taxes on the properties and manage the properties with prescribed burns and conservation grazing in collaboration with the state Department of Natural Resources.

“Minnesota’s last and best remaining prairies must be protected,” Nature Conservancy Director Peggy Ladner said in a news release. “They provide excellent wildlife habitat and great opportunities for outdoor recreation.”

The Minnesota Prairie Recovery Project is an effort to conserve and manage the state’s remaining prairies. Prior to European settlement, there were more than 18 million acres of prairie in the state, the release stated. Today, about 220,000 acres remain, according to the Minnesota County Biological Survey. About half of the remaining prairie land is unprotected.