Preserving a Prairie Heritage

Settlers were spurred into western North Dakota by the Homestead Act of 1862, but did not immediately settle in the Coteau of northwestern North Dakota because soils were poor, and dreaded prairie fires were frequent. Settlement finally began in 1900-1910.

As man "tamed" the area, wildfires were contained and eventually stopped altogether. Grasses and forbs on remaining grasslands gradually were overtaken by brush species, reducing habitat for grassland wildlife. Wetland drainage (done to increase farmland productivity), which continues today caused extensive habitat loss to water-dependant wildlife.

Pronghorn Antelope Grazing

In order to preserve our prairie heritage, Lostwood National Refuge was established on September 4, 1935, " a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife..." Encompassing 26,747 acres, about 70% of Lostwood is virgin prairie. Most wetlands on Lostwood were not drained and remain as they were prior to settlement.

Congress acted further to guarantee our prairie heritage by establishing the 5,577-acre Lostwood Wilderness Area in 1975. Under wilderness management guidelines, natural or controlled fire is required to maintain and preserve the grassland ecosystem.

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