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Sustainability 2012, 4(11), 3066-3087; doi:10.3390/su4113066

Talking Big: Lessons Learned from a 9000 Hectare Restoration in the Northern Tallgrass Prairie

1,* , 2
1 The Nature Conservancy and University of North Dakota, 81 Cornell Street Stop 8358, Grand Forks, ND 58202, USA 2 The Nature Conservancy, 394 Lake Avenue S., Suite 308, Duluth, MN 55802, USA 3 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 31077 State Hwy 32 S., Mentor, MN 56736, USA 4 The Nature Conservancy, 414 E. Clark Street, Vermillion, SD 57069, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 28 August 2012 / Revised: 6 November 2012 / Accepted: 6 November 2012 / Published: 13 November 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Terrestrial Ecosystem Restoration)
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Large tracts (>1000 ha) of prairie are essential to the sustainability of grassland ecosystem services, yet in many ecoregions only small fragments remain. Glacial Ridge is among the largest prairie-wetland restorations ever attempted. Started in 2000, the 9000 ha project in northwest Minnesota, USA, was initiated to reconnect 14 small tallgrass prairie remnants. In all, 15,200 ha of contiguous habitat comprise the project's direct accomplishment. We created a partnership of more than 30 organizations, filled 177 km of drainage ditch, restored 1240 ha of wetland, and replanted 8100 ha. Flooding has been mitigated, water quality improved, and native vegetation reestablished. Animals not documented for decades have again occupied the site. Despite these accomplishments, the project would have been unnecessary if the land had been purchased in the 1970s, prior to conversion to agriculture, at one-tenth the restoration cost. Our challenges related to funding, differences in partners' restoration philosophy, community concerns about floods and tax losses, difficulties in obtaining seed, and follow-up management of invasive weeds. We summarize the restoration process and share basic principles that will help others to develop large-scale prairie restoration projects in the future.
Keywords: grassland; land-use management; conservation; landscape ecology; restoration; prairie grassland; land-use management; conservation; landscape ecology; restoration; prairie
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Gerla, P.J.; Cornett, M.W.; Ekstein, J.D.; Ahlering, M.A. Talking Big: Lessons Learned from a 9000 Hectare Restoration in the Northern Tallgrass Prairie. Sustainability 2012, 4, 3066-3087.

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