Protecting grassland and wetland habitat is one of the most critical environmental challenges facing Minnesota. In response, local teams have formed to consider common sense solutions to keep grass on the land, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
These 10 new teams – working closely across western Minnesota with farmers, landowners, local officials and citizens – will promote grassland conservation and grass-based agriculture as outlined in the state’s prairie conservation plan.
“We are relying on our local resource managers and partners who know the lay of the land and what will work in their communities,” said the DNR’s Marybeth Block, who coordinates efforts to implement grassland elements of the prairie conservation plan. “These folks already have relationships with many landowners and producers, and they’re reaching out in a coordinated manner to those who may not be aware of the conservation and management options out there.”
The prairie conservation plan demonstrates unprecedented cooperation between federal agencies, state agencies and conservation organizations. The plan addresses the millions of acres of grassland and wetland which have been lost in Minnesota over the past 150 years and creates a vision of connected grassland and wetland habitat from Canada to Iowa.
Partnerships– both among conservation and agricultural groups, as well as with key landowners and farm operators – are crucial to implementing successful conservation strategies, said Ryan Atwell, an independent researcher who studied the sociological connection between grassland conservation and agriculture in areas of western Minnesota. Agricultural entities often voice confusion and frustration about the lack of coordination among conservation organizations.
“The formation of these local teams emphasizes coordination and partnering to achieve the best social, economic, and ecological outcomes for a particular area,” Atwell said. “Meeting farm operation goals and understanding the needs of rural communities is vital to conserving grassland landscapes.”
Mead Klavetter, assistant manager with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Morris Wetland Management District, has worked with grassland habitat in many locations across the nation.
“Being part of the Lac Qui Parle grassland team has been one of the most rewarding efforts I’ve been part of in my career,” Klavetter said. “Working together, we can speak with one voice to people who want to hear about options to protect, restore or manage native prairie, other grassland and wetlands.”
“Our teams concentrate on conservation efforts that get positive outcomes for the environment while adding value to the community and economy,” Block said. “When we accomplish that, everyone benefits.”
Find more information on the prairie conservation plan online.