Prior to European settlement, more than 18 million acres of prairie covered Minnesota. Our prairie lands were part of the largest ecosystem in North America, which stretched from Canada to Mexico and from the Rockies to Indiana. A wealth of diverse species, habitats and cultures thrived here.
With its fertile soil, nutritious grasses and aura of possibility, prairie became the basis for an agricultural empire. It also influenced our sense of national identity.
Today, less than one percent of Minnesota's native prairie remains. Many of these treasures occur as small remnants scattered across Minnesota. They may be disguised as that portion of your land too hilly, rocky, wet or steep to plow. It may even be where the cows currently roam, or the spot where patches of beautiful wildflowers bloom spring through fall. These spots represent a large portion of what remains of Minnesota's native prairie.
Because of the near elimination of native prairie throughout North America, many have been inspired to protect remaining parcels. Minnesota is striving to do that through the Native Prairie Bank program. In 1987, the Minnesota state legislature created the Native Prairie Bank program as part of the Reinvest in Minnesota legislation. This program allows landowners to protect native prairie on their property through a conservation easement with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). This currently isn't a large program, but has been very successful in protecting many prairie remnants across the state on private land.
To learn more about this program, the Prairie Smoke Chapter of The Prairie Enthusiasts is hosting DNR Biologist, Jason Garms, for an evening program on Minnesota's Prairie Bank Program. This program will be held at Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester at 7pm on Monday, November 3rd. This meeting is free and open to the public. Landowners who wish to learn more about prairie and ways to protect it are encouraged to attend. To learn more about the Prairie Bank Program, visit the DNR website at www.dnr.state.mn.us/prairierestoration/prairiebank. To learn more about the Prairie Enthusiasts, visit their website at www.theprairieenthusiasts.org/chapter/smoke/smoke.