Grand River Grasslands Prairie Habitat Connectivity Project

Project #: 15686  –   Updated: March 19, 2012

Project Summary

The Nature Conservancy has taken on a leading role in preserving Missouri's and Iowa's prairie heritage. The Grand River Grasslands Conservation Opportunity Area is a 25,000 acre native grassland restoration area located in Harrison County, Missouri and is part of the 70,000 acre Grand River Grasslands spanning the Iowa/Missouri border. Early land surveys indicate that as much as 95% of this landscape, which is part of the Central Tallgrass Prairie Ecoregion, existed as native prairie. Today, approximately 84% consists of degraded grassland habitat, mostly non-native cool-season grasses ...

view full description

Location (by county):
Harrison County (MO), Ringgold County (IA)

Watersheds:
Upper Grand

Congressional Districts:
IA District 03, MO District 06

Bird Conservation Regions:
Eastern Tallgrass Prairie

USFWS Regions:
Midwest Region

Project size:
4070.0 acres

Public Access

Site Name Publicly Accessible
Dunn Ranch Preserve Yes
Grand River Grasslands Yes

Full Project Description

The Nature Conservancy has taken on a leading role in preserving Missouri's and Iowa's prairie heritage. The Grand River Grasslands Conservation Opportunity Area is a 25,000 acre native grassland restoration area located in Harrison County, Missouri and is part of the 70,000 acre Grand River Grasslands spanning the Iowa/Missouri border. Early land surveys indicate that as much as 95% of this landscape, which is part of the Central Tallgrass Prairie Ecoregion, existed as native prairie. Today, approximately 84% consists of degraded grassland habitat, mostly non-native cool-season grasses such as brome and fescue. Although overall grassland diversity has declined, approximately half of the grasslands contain significant prairie vegetation that is considered restorable. In addition, the presence of several indicator grassland species, including a small population of Greater Prairie Chickens, identifies this as one of the best places in the Central Tallgrass Prairie Ecoregion to restore a functioning tallgrass prairie ecosystem.

Under this project, The Conservancy plans to restore 940 acres of land to prairie habitat using a process that has been proven to be a successful restoration method. Fescue pastures will be prepared for seeding with a variety of techniques including soybean planting, herbicide application, and prescribed burns. Planting techniques will include direct-seeding into soybean stubble and inter-seeding into low-quality prairie remnants. Seed will be mechanically harvested in the fall from portions of the The Nature Conservancy's Dunn Ranch preserve and from Missouri Department of Conservation-owned prairies. Seed harvested at this time tends to be of low diversity (20-25 species), resulting in a very homogeneous, floristically low quality restoration or reconstruction. In order to increase the species richness of the seed mix to over 100 species, seed from conservative species will be hand-collected throughout the growing season and additional conservative species will be purchased from seed vendors.

Also under this project, approximately 2,100 acres of habitat will be treated with fire to improve the success of prairie plantings and to enhace currently established prairies. Prescribed burns will be properly planned and supervised by professional conservation staff with RXB2 certification. Certified staff will complete prescribed fire plans, a site restoration plan identifying needs for habitat improvement, and emergency response communications involving the local rural fire department. In addition, problem invasive and aggressive species on 4,000 acres will be cut and/or spot-sprayed throughout the growing season by trained crews so that native species are able to thrive. A contractor will be hired to clear invasive trees from an additional 120 acres of grassland.

In addition to restoration activities, The Conservancy's Private Land Coordinator will work directly with private landowners to demonstrate that conservation and agriculture can be accomplished hand-in-hand through pasture conversion, removal of trees, and other conservation-friendly agricultural practices. Since more than 87% of land within the Grand River Grasslands Conservation Opportunity Area is in private land ownership, private conservation efforts are essential to the success of the Greater Prairie Chicken and other important grassland birds. The Private Land Coordinator will work with interested landowners to influence grassland management on private lands through workshops and direct outreach. The Conservancy also plans to facilitate conservation practices on private land through cost-share projects with willing landowners. To track efforts made with private landowners, a shared database will be used by The Nature Conservancy and our conservation partners.

Project Assistance & Partnership Opportunities

Volunteers

Volunteer assistance is always welcome. We have volunteer needs with most aspects of our restoration work including seed collection and processing and invasive species removal and treatment.

Goals and Targets

Primary motivations:

Conservation Mission
The mission of The Nature Conservancy 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.

Primary goals:

TNC will create and distribute a GIS database that contains all private landowner contact information and private land accomplishments throughout the GRG COA.
Progress:

A GIS database was developed that tracks all the habitat work accomplished on private lands in the Grand River Grasslands in cooperation with the private land staffs from The Nature Conservancy, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Missouri Department of Conservation. All accomplishments to date have been entered.

TNC will evaluate 36,000 acres of private grasslands to determine habitat limiting factors for the Greater Prairie Chicken and other grassland birds. This data will be spatially represented to determine priorities for conservation action within the GRG COA.
Progress:

Approximately 19,000 acres of private grasslands in Missouri and 44,480 acres in Iowa have been monitored to date to determine the amount of suitable habitat for Greater Prairie Chickens. The habitat limiting factors found through this monitoring have been mapped.

TNC will enhance over 4,000 acres of prairie with prescribed burns and removal of invasive tree and herbaceous species.
Progress:

Invasive trees have been removed from open areas of 120 acres of grassland.

More than 2000 acres were spot sprayed for sericea lespedeza, musk thistle, tree sprouts, and tall fescue in the fall of 2010 and summer of 2011. A two person crew will be hired to continue this work during the summer of 2012.

Invasive trees were hand cut from more than 80 acres during the late summer and early fall of 2010 and from 160 acres in the summer of 2011. A two person crew was hired to work from July 1 - October 31, 2011 to continue this work.

Prescribed burns scheduled for the fall and winter of 2010 had to be postponed due to weather conditions. More than 1,500 acres have been burned in March and April 2011. Another 320 acres were burned in November 2011 with 1,285 more acres scheduled for the spring of 2012.

TNC will restore 940 acres of fescue pasture to native tallgrass prairie.
Progress:

A three person crew hand collected more than 600 pounds comprised of more than 150 species of native forbs and grasses between June and November 2010. Another 15,000 pounds of a diverse native mix of seed was harvested with a combine in November 2010. This seed was used for seeding 460 acres in February and March 2011.

On February 22nd and 23rd 2011, a diverse seed mix containing nearly 200 species of native forbs and grasses were seeded on 278 acres at Dunn Ranch. Another 182 acres was seeded in mid-March 2011.

A three person crew hand collected seed from June 20, 2011 through October 2011. This crew hand collected seed from more than 85 species totaling 360 pounds. Another 7,360 pounds comprised of more than 169 species was harvested with our combine in November 2011 and will be seeded on 480 acres in February and march of 2012.

In February 2012, a diverse seed mix containing nearly 200 species of native forbs and grasses was seeded on 282 acres at Dunn Ranch. Another 198 acres will be seeded in April 2012 which will complete or restoration seeding goal.

TNC will increase grassland conservation efforts on private lands in Missouri and Iowa through direct outreach to 400 private landowners, two private land workshops, and cost-share projects with willing landowners to enhance habitat for grassland birds.
Progress:

A workshop focusing on deer management of oak savannahs using native plants is in the planning stages for the spring of 2012. This will be held in cooperation with the Souther Iowa Oak Savannah Alliance.

Using cost-share money, trees were removed from 658 acres of grassland and 100 acres were planted to native grasses on property owned by The Nature Conservancy in the summer of 2011. This property is now up for sale to a private landowner with a conservation easement to keep the property as open grassland.

A workshop for private landowners on sericea lespedeza control was held June 29th, 2011. Jane Hansen, a representative from Dow Agro Sciences, discussed various chemical treatment options. Sericea life history and cost share options related to sericea control were also discussed. Jane has done workshops for up to 120 people. The workshop was opened to local NRCS and other agency staff as well as landowners. This provided the additional opportunity for interactions between the landowners and agency staff. Fifteen people attended including landowners from Iowa and Missouri and personnel from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Missouri Department of Conservation, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The first edition of the Grand River Grassland newsletter was mailed to all 265 landowners in the Grand River Grasslands (GRG) in February 2011. The purpose of the newsletter was to introduce the new Private Land Coordinator, inform landowners in the GRG about opportunities for government cost share programs, and discuss the upcoming Greater Prairie Chicken habitat evaluation project within the Iowa portion of the GRG.

Nearly 150 landowners within the Iowa portion of the Grand River Grasslands were contacted by mail in January 2011 and by phone to inform them about the Greater Prairie Chicken and obtain permission to monitor their land for suitability as Prairie Chicken brood-rearing and nesting habitat.

Consistent with plans:

Species Recovery Plan
Missouri Greater Prairie Chicken Recovery Initiative under the State Wildlife Action Plan
State Wildlife Action Plan
Missouri State Wildlife Action Plan; Iowa Wildlife Action Plan

Targeted habitats were not provided for this project.

Targeted species:

  • Greater Prairie Chicken Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus
  • Henslow's Sparrow Ammodramus henslowii
  • Grasshopper Sparrow Ammodramus savannarum
  • Dickcissel Spiza americana
  • Bobolink Dolichonyx oryzivorus
  • Upland Sandpiper Bartramia longicauda
  • Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna

Actions

Project Actions
Other: GIS database creation Show/Hide details
Control invasive plants Show/Hide details
Conduct prescribed burns Show/Hide details
Develop a voluntary conservation plan Show/Hide details
Vegetation monitoring Show/Hide details
Other: Workshops Show/Hide details
Other: Outreach Show/Hide details
Plant native trees and/or shrubs, herbs, forbs, grasses Show/Hide details

Assistance

Direct Funding
National Wild Turkey Federation (Non-Governmental Organization) Show/Hide details
Missouri Department of Conservation (State Government) Show/Hide details
Missouri Department of Conservation (State Government) Show/Hide details

Outcomes

Is the success of this project's actions being monitored?   Yes

Log in to save this project in My Registry

Print this Project Print this Project Printing Help

Organization

The Nature Conservancy of Missouri
(Non-Governmental Organization)

Primary Contact

Randy Arndt  (Grand River Grasslands Site Manager)
The Nature Conservancy
Send email

Partners

  • Missouri Department of Conservation
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Iowa Department of Natural Resources
  • Missouri Bird Conservation Initiative
  • National Wild Turkey Federation

Project Photos

Prairie_chicken_detail

Project Links