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Nearly 150 acres of land in Pope County acquired for outdoor recreation

The Nature Conservancy is protecting nearly 150 acres of prairie and wetlands adjacent to its Ordway Prairie Preserve in Pope County. The land was acquired recently under the Minnesota Prairie Recovery Project, an innovative effort to conserve and manage the state's remaining prairies.

Funding for the property was provided by the Outdoor Heritage Fund, which was created under the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, through an appropriation by the Minnesota Legislature as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

The property is open to the public for outdoor recreation including hunting, birding, hiking and cross-country skiing. This is consistent with requirements under the constitutional language that established the Outdoor Heritage Fund.

"Ordway Prairie is a beautiful place to visit and see an outstanding example of the grasslands that once dominated the landscape in western and southern Minnesota," said Peggy Ladner, director of The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota. "Protecting prairies and wetlands helps keep our rivers, lakes and groundwater clean and provides us with great places to hike, hunt and enjoy nature."

The 150-acre property will be added to the Conservancy's Ordway Prairie Preserve, which is home to prairie grasses and wildflowers, fens and other wetlands and wildlife including Poweshiek skippers and regal fritillary butterflies.

The addition to Ordway Prairie is a mixture of unplowed native prairie and groundwater seepage wetlands but will need restoration work to remove trees, brush and invasive species to return the property to a more natural condition.

The Conservancy will manage the new property with prescribed burns and conservation grazing to preserve the diversity of native plants and wildlife. Prairie plants historically were grazed by wildlife such as bison.

The Conservancy will pay property taxes on the new property and is seeking private donations to help pay for land management costs.

Prior to European settlement, there were more than 18 million acres of prairie in Minnesota. Only about 220,000 acres or approximately 1 percent remain today, according to the Minnesota County Biological Survey. About half of the state's remaining prairies are unprotected and at risk of being converted.