TNC + MDC = Conservation Success
When you look east from high points along Route D in Harrison County, the treeless, expansive, grassland landscape has a western feel that is rare in Missouri. It would be easy to imagine a herd of bison roaming the high, open prairie. You might hear the overhead whistle of an upland sandpiper or the boom of prairie chickens dancing on the distant ridgetop.
What you are looking at, for the most part, is called Dunn Ranch, which includes one of the best remaining tallgrass prairies between Indiana and eastern Nebraska.
Purchased in 1999 by the Missouri Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, Dunn Ranch represents a conservation milestone for both The Nature Conservancy and the Missouri Department of Conservation. Since the early 1970s, both organizations made several attempts to acquire the property. Twenty-five years after the initial overture, the Conservancy was successful. The initial Dunn Ranch purchase involved about 2,300 acres, but a recent addition expanded the area under protection to nearly 3,000 acres.
More than 1,000 acres of Dunn Ranch is native prairie that's never been plowed. The site supports a robust prairie bird community that includes western meadowlarks, grasshopper sparrows, bobolinks, dickcissels and sedge wrens. It also contains birds of conservation concern, including upland sandpipers, Henslow's sparrows and greater prairie chickens.
Shortly after acquiring the property, Conservancy staff and volunteers joined Department wildlife biologist Randy Arndt and his crew to plant 17,000 prairie plant seedlings on the nearby Pawnee Prairie Conservation Area. Plantings include butterfly milkweed, prairie clover, Culver's root and other prairie species. As they mature, these plants provide seeds for planting on Dunn Ranch, as well as for Pawnee Prairie and other grassland sites.
Owners of neighboring pastures and hayfields are also important partners in the Dunn Ranch project. Keith Kinne, manager of Dunn Ranch, along with staff from the Department's new Private Lands Division, are working with interested landowners to improve prairie habitat on their land. Cooperative projects include enhancing grassland plant diversity, clearing pastures of honey locust and hedge and adopting rotational grazing. These improvements should benefit prairie wildlife and plant species beyond the boundaries of public lands.
The Nature Conservancy is a private, nonprofit conservation organization with more than one million members nationally. The Missouri Chapter has more than 15,000 members.
The Missouri Chapter has helped protect more than 138,000 acres of the state's prairies, woodlands, glades and wetlands. It owns 36 preserves comprising nearly 17,000 acres.
Over the past 50 years, the