Partnership will ensure nearly 11,000 acres of tallgrass prairie preserved for public recreation and wildlife habitat

TOPEKA -- The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has reached an agreement with the Kansas Park Trust to acquire the 11,000-acre Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and raise approximately $5 million needed to permanently protect the grassland. Located in Chase County, the preserve provides wildlife habitat and public recreational opportunities for visitors and offers a rich history of the tallgrass prairie that once covered much of central North America.

The National Park Service, TNC, and the Kansas Park Trust have formed a partnership for the ownership, development, operation and promotion of the preserve. TNC will own the land, pay the taxes, handle the grazing leases, and collaborate with the National Park Service on overall natural resource plans.

The tallgrass prairie, which historically spanned the eastern third of the Great Plains, is the most altered ecosystem in North America. These prairies have been reduced to less than 4 percent of their original range, and of the tallgrass prairie that remains, the majority occurs in the Flint Hills of Kansas.
New hiking trails are scheduled to open on the preserve this fall. TNC will retire the grazing leases on 1,100 acres that currently are part of a park bus tour. The removal of cattle from this portion of the preserve will allow grass to grow as tall as it historically did.

The acquisition of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve will ensure protection of many native grasses, including big bluestem, little bluestem, Indiangrass, and switchgrass. These grasses can grow as high as 10 feet and send roots as deep as 12 feet. The tallgrass prairie provides exceptional habitat for a wide variety of species, including greater prairie chickens, Henslow's sparrows, upland sandpipers, and American golden plovers.