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Valley City Wetland Management District - North Dakota


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.

Many Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) in the Valley City District have been planted to a mix of wheatgrass, alfalfa, and sweetclover. This mixture, commonly referred to as dense nesting cover (DNC), is attractive to nesting ducks. Some WPAs still harbor native tallgrass prairie vegetation, including big bluestem, switchgrass, Indian grass, purple coneflower, and prairie coneflower. Still other WPAs have been re-seeded to a native grass mixture.

Photo of big bluestem at sunset - Photo credit:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Grasslands not only provide havens for a variety of nesting birds and other wildlife, but they also help reduce soil erosion caused by wind and water. They filter chemicals, thus protecting our water supplies. Grassland vegetation, such as grass, forbs, and shrubs, help trap snow and rain which allows a more regulated flow of precipitation to recharge ground water supplies.

To help protect remaining prairie habitat, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has an active grassland easement program. This program provides financial incentive to voluntary private landowners who permanently keep their grassland intact. Through this program, grazing is not restricted, so producers can benefit without disrupting their livestock operation. Therefore, the easement program benefits both the landowner and wildlife.

Photo of prairie smoke plant - Photo credit:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Land covered by a grassland easement may not be cultivated, but mowing, haying and grass seed harvesting is allowed after August 1st each year. This August 1st date allows most grassland nesting birds adequate time to complete their nesting before disturbance.

Many wildlife species depend on grasslands for food, cover, and nesting sites. Protecting these grasslands ensures that wildlife will be there for future generations to enjoy. If you are interested in a grassland easement, please contact the Valley City WMD.

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