Managing American Prairie Land
American Prairie intends to hold title to its private lands in perpetuity. Private land ownership affords quicker decision-making opportunities when compared to public management. We also can focus land management decisions on the priorities most beneficial to ecosystem restoration and public enjoyment. Additionally, as a donor-driven organization, we are not reliant upon government action for funding.
Our approach to land management and biodiversity restoration is built around the Freese Scale for Grassland Restoration. Developed by conservation biologist Dr. Curt Freese with Dr. Kyran Kunkel and Dr. Sam Fuhlendorf, the Freese Scale identifies the ten major ecological drivers for restoring and conserving biodiversity on temperate grasslands. This scale can be used by land managers trying to achieve a balance between agricultural production and biodiversity as well as those, like us, which are solely focused on maximizing native prairie biodiversity.
Freese Scale for Grassland Restoration
We evaluate the land we own and rate it according to the Freese Scale. The total score for a particular area is recorded and retained, allowing for annual comparisons. Armed with this information, we decide what approaches in management could lead to an improved score for a particular area. The ten ecological drivers that are ranked include:
- Intact grasslands with native vegetation
- Natural and large-scale grazing patterns
- Historic fire patterns
- Natural stream flow and healthy riparian areas
- Resiliency to periodic weather extremes
- Abundant and diverse grazing mammals
- Natural populations of predators
- Regulations of grazing mammals by predators
- Habitat connectivity
- Large management units
Owning land is the most effective way to advance our mission. As a landowner, we are able to welcome the public to our properties while also implementing management practices that align with our organizational goals and initiatives. A conservation easement is a legal agreement that limits the uses that can occur on a property. The main motivation for this is to ensure the long-term protection of grassland habitat by prohibiting plowing of native prairie, development, fragmentation, and other activities that alter wildlife habitat. Some conservation easements ensure public access, but not all. Our mission is to conserve the land in perpetuity and open the land to the public. Because our mission aligns with the intent of conservation easements, they aren’t always necessary.