Vast grasslands once covered much of North America. Settlement, agriculture, and development have reduced prairie habitats to a patchwork of isolated grasslands in a sea of croplands, roads, and cities. Loss of these grasslands is detrimental to people as well as to wildlife.
The Chase Lake WMD lies in the northern plains area known as the mixed-grass prairie. The predominant vegetation of this prairie is a mixture of short and mid-grasses such as Junegrass, green needlegrass, needle and thread, blue grama, little bluestem, western wheatgrass, and many species of wildflowers. More than 13,000 acres of native prairie vegetation is protected on WPAs. Additional acres of former cropland have been converted to dense nesting cover (DNC), which is a mixture of cool-season grasses and legumes attractive to nesting ducks. These grasslands and wetlands create the proper mix of habitat necessary for waterfowl and wildlife to survive and produce their young.
Grasslands serve to reduce soil erosion caused by wind and water. They also filter chemicals, thus protecting water supplies. Grasses, forbs, and shrubs help to trap snow and rain, allowing a more regulated flow of precipitation into ground water supplies.
In order to protect remaining prairie habitat, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has an active grassland easement program which provides financial incentive to voluntary private landowners to permanently keep their native grassland intact. Most of this private land is currently used for livestock grazing by landowners who wish to ensure productive land for future generations of ranchers and wildlife.
Grassland easement acreage may not be cultivated, and mowing, haying, and grass seed harvesting are postponed until after August 1st to allow grassland nesting birds adequate time to complete nesting. Grazing is not restricted in any way. Many wildlife species depend on grasslands for food, cover, and nesting sites. Protecting these grasslands will ensure that such wildlife will remain for the enjoyment of future generations. If you are interested in a grassland easement, please contact the Chase Lake WMD.
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