Cooperatove Conservation Project

Glacial Ridge Project, Partnership in Preservation

Location: Midwest/Northern High Plains Region: Minnesota

Project Summary: Glacial Ridge Project, the country’s largest grassland and wetland reconstruction effort, is returning Minnesota’s prairie to its pre-settlement condition.
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Wild prairie smoke flowers at Minnesota’s Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo credit Christine Hura/TNC)
Resource Challenge
Less than one percent of Minnesota’s original native prairie is intact. Habitat fragmentation is the most pressing challenge: the few prairies that do survive are often in isolated patches. Invasive species and fire suppression also take a toll on natural systems and the species that these prairies support.

In northwestern Minnesota, many of the remaining prairie patches are clustered around the Glacial Ridge Project. Part of the project is the 35,000-acre Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge, established in 2004. The core of the new refuge is the more than 24,000 acres owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy. The Conservancy and its partners have embarked upon one of the largest prairie and wetland reconstruction projects in U.S. history. Glacial Ridge is a hub connecting numerous other natural areas, including 11 state wildlife management areas, two scientific and natural areas, three waterfowl production areas, and The Nature Conservancy’s existing Pembina Trail Preserve.

Although 17,000 acres at Glacial Ridge have been altered by agriculture and gravel mining, the sheer size of the project and the small patches of native prairie that survive make Glacial Ridge an exceptional restoration opportunity.
Examples of Key Partners
Results and Accomplishments
The Nature Conservancy and its partners are transforming Glacial Ridge’s fields and ditches and giving the land a chance to heal.  Since restoration began in June 2001, land stewards, partners, and volunteers have replanted more than 6,000 acres in native prairie grasses, restored more than 45 wetlands, and filled eight miles of ditches. More than 7,000 acres have been enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program, and neighboring landowners have added to the project area by enrolling an additional 12,000 acres. 

By the time this project is complete, Glacial Ridge will support more than 16,000 acres of native and restored tallgrass prairie and more than 8,000 acres of restored wetlands. The land will abound with grama and bluestem grasses, prairie chickens, sandhill cranes, marbled godwits, and northern harriers.

The Glacial Ridge Project Partnership created an endowment fund to pay property taxes into perpetuity.

Project Contact
Ron Nargang
State Director
The Nature Conservancy



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