The present day landscape of cropland and cool-season pasture was formerly dominated by upland tallgrass prairie, with some savanna, woodland, and bottomland wet prairie, marsh, and forest (Nigh and Schroeder 2002). However, high-quality, deep-soiled fragments of remnant (e.g., 1,000 acre unplowed prairie on Dunn Ranch) and restored tallgrass prairies exist in the Grand River Grasslands IBA. Some second-growth forests of invasive tree species exist there as well (Nigh and Schroeder 2002).
Fourteen percent of the Grand River Grasslands IBA is managed as conservation land, comprising the Missouri Department of Conservation?s (MDC) Pawnee Prairie Natural Area (NA) (472 acres, 191 ha), and The Nature Conservancy's (TNC) Pawnee Prairie (434 acres, 176 ha) and larger Dunn Ranch (3,680 acres, 1490 ha).

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Ornithological Summary

The Grand River Grasslands IBA contains the largest Greater Prairie-Chicken population in Missouri (Palmer and Palmer 2001). In addition to being and important IBA for prairie-chickens, grassland-associated birds that use this IBA include Bell?s Vireo (nests in shrubs in grassland), Bobolink, Dickcissel, Grasshopper Sparrow, Henslow?s Sparrow, Northern Harrier (with evidence of nesting), Short-eared Owl, Smith?s Longspur, and Upland Sandpiper. Three major landholdings (described below) in the area contain tallgrass prairie remnants. The larger tracts (e.g., Dunn Ranch) provide large habitat patches to accommodate area sensitive grassland bird species, like Greater Prairie-Chicken and Upland Sandpiper (Walk and Warner 1999, Winter and Faaborg 1999).

Conservation Issues

The Grand River Grasslands IBA within Missouri is part of a larger prairie landscape restoration effort headed by TNC (the ?Grand River Grasslands? project), which encompasses 70,000 acres straddling the Missouri-Iowa border (see Preserves, such as Dunn Ranch, serve as core prairie sites within this landscape. The objective is to restore large tracts of tallgrass prairie that will satisfy the minimum area requirements of area-sensitive grassland birds, such as the Greater Prairie-chicken. Conservation challenges outlined for MDC?s overlapping Grand River Grassland Conservation Opportuinity Area (MDC (2005) include identification of prairie remnants, changing private landownership patterns, and finding private landowners willing to conduct prescribed burning and exotic species control (e.g., against sericea lespedeza).

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