U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Division of Refuge Planning
Mountain-Prairie Region

Completed Plan Contacts

The Service completed this plan
in 2000.



Huron Wetlands Acquisition Office
200 Fourth Street Southwest
Room 307
Huron, South Dakota 57350

Branch of Land Protection Planning
134 Union Boulevard, Suite 300
Lakewood, Colorado 80228


605 / 352 7014 Huron
303 / 236 4345 Lakewood



Land Protection Plan

Dakota Tallgrass Prairie Wildlife Management Area
Grassland Easement Program

North Dakota, South Dakota


This environmental assessment documents the establishment of the Dakota Tallgrass Prairie Wildlife Management Area Easement Program. The tallgrass prairie region is the eastern third of the Great Plains. As the prairie has been plowed and fragmented, the once expansive, complex ecosystem has been simplified and the forces of fire and grazing bison no longer recreate the tallgrass prairie of the past. At less than 4 percent of its original size, this region has become one of North America’s most endangered ecosystems.

The purpose of this conservation easement program is to preserve quality tallgrass prairie habitat in eastern North Dakota and South Dakota to help maintain biodiversity and to slow habitat fragmentation.

  • Established in 2000.
  • Comprises 2.1 million acres, of which the Service will acquire conservation easements on 185,000 acres of private land.
  • Encompasses all tallgrass prairie in eastern South Dakota (28 counties) and a portion in southeastern North Dakota (4 counties).

The Service established the Dakota Tallgrass Prairie Wildlife Management Area to help preserve the rich diversity of plant and animal species supported by tallgrass prairie habitat: at least 300 species of plants, 113 species of butterflies, 35 species of reptiles and amphibians, 60 species of mammals, and 260 species of birds. There are 237 species of rare plants and animals in the area; at the Federal level, 13 species are under consideration or listed as threatened and endangered, such as the western prairie fringed-orchid, piping plover, and Topeka shiner.

The Service will preserve prairie primarily through the purchase of perpetual grassland easements from willing sellers. Occasionally, fee-title purchase of tracts and reseeding native prairie may occur.

Image of the plan cover.

  • Goal is to preserve prairie in blocks of 10,000 to 20,000 acres.
  • First priority for purchase: native tallgrass prairie, larger than 160 acres, nearby other protected lands, and have biological significance such as the presence of rare or listed species.
  • Minimum easement size is 40 acres, with 160 acres preferred.

Easements restrict grazing, permit haying after July 15 each year, and prohibit plowing the prairie. All land with easements remains in private ownership; therefore, property tax, invasive plant control, and control of public access remains the responsibility of the landowner.


Environmental assessment
Environmental assessment 2000 (1 MB PDF)