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Glacial Ridge Becomes Nation’s Newest Wildlife Refuge

Press release from The Nature Conservancy | April 02, 2005

Minneapolis, MN - The nation's largest tallgrass prairie and wetland reconstruction project will form the heart of the country's newest wildlife refuge - the 35,000-acre Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge, the partners in the project announced today.

The new refuge, located in northwestern Minnesota, will link 12 existing conservation areas, protect important habitat for migratory waterfowl and ground nesting birds and provide opportunities for public recreation.

Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton announced the designation of the new national wildlife refuge at a ceremony with Governor Tim Pawlenty, Senator Norm Coleman, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Nature Conservancy. The project has support from Minnesota's entire Congressional delegation including Senator Mark Dayton and Congressman Collin Peterson.

"It's been a great pleasure to see this project come to fruition," said Ron Nargang, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota. "It has been one of the finest examples of partnership I've ever been associated with. More than 30 entities have contributed to its success. This is a classic example of cooperative conservation."

At the core of the new Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge is more than 24,000 acres owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy. Since 2000, the Conservancy has been working with more than 30 partners to restore thousands of acres of northern tallgrass prairie and wetlands at the site. The Conservancy will donate nearly 2,000 acres to the Fish and Wildlife Service that will become the first piece of the Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge. The formal transfer of this initial piece of land will be on October 26th at an event in Crookston. Moreover, the Conservancy will donate the vast majority of its remaining acreage at Glacial Ridge to the Service for inclusion in the Wildlife Refuge as restoration is completed. In addition, the Conservancy has established an endowment fund that will ensure full property taxes continue to be paid to local governments.

The Nature Conservancy joined with more than 30 agencies and organizations to restore the land to its presettlement condition. Currently, less than one percent of Minnesota's original northern tallgrass prairie habitat remains. In a special collaboration with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, some 17,000 acres of farmland within the new refuge will be restored to prairies and wetlands under the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP). A voluntary program, WRP helps landowners protect, restore and enhance natural habitats. It is the premiere wetland conservation program in the country.

When fully restored, the lands will provide tremendous habitat for moose, gray wolf, waterfowl, prairie chickens and other upland game birds, and a host of other prairie species. The prairie lands also contain several large colonies of western prairie fringed orchid - a federally listed endangered species – in this core area of the plant's range. The property connects 11 state Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), 2 Scientific and Natural Areas (SNAs), and 3 Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs), forming a large area of contiguous prairie habitat.

The property is open to the public for a wide variety of recreational activities, including hiking, hunting, fishing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.

Located near Crookston in Polk County, the partners in the Glacial Ridge project includes some 30 organizations and agencies including, the Bush Foundation, the City of Crookston, Ducks Unlimited, Moorhead State University, Polk County, East Polk Soil and Water Conservation Council, Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and many others. For a complete list, see attached document.

Glacial Ridge becomes Minnesota's 13th National Wildlife Refuge and the 545th in the country. Refuges are a national network of lands and waters managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conserve, manage and restore wildlife and plant habitat for future generations.

Article has been adapted from a news release issued by The Nature Conservancy. Click here for the original news release.

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