This site is a block of nearly contiguous grasslands in Oakville and Fairfield Townships in Grand Forks County.
grasslands of Oakville and Fairfield Townships provide habitat where such
iconic grassland species as Western Meadowlark, Marbled Godwit, Upland
Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Greater Prairie Chicken, Yellow Rail, and
several grassland sparrows are still present as breeders. It also provides a migratory
stopover for birds, especially raptors, that otherwise can’t find suitable
habitat in the Red River Valley. Over the years, exceptional numbers of
Rough-legged Hawks, Short-eared Owls, and Snowy Owls have been found on the
grasslands. Because of ephemeral wetlands and coulees, and the wetlands created
by the English Coulee Retention Dam, there is also considerable habitat for
waterfowl and shorebirds.
The significance of this area needs
to be considered within the context of the “Red River Valley”, which is the
lake plain of Glacial Lake Agassiz. Before settlement the Valley was tall
tallgrass prairie. The RRV has now been almost entirely converted to cropland
growing a variety of crops including sugar beets, corn, soybeans, sunflowers,
canola, and small grains. As shown by several breeding bird surveys, modern
agricultural practices have severely reduced the number of grassland birds, and
in fact, eliminated them from large areas where the most intensive agriculture
occurs. Coincidentally, the livestock industry has disappeared except for a
very few places such as described in this nomination.
For several years, in the 1990s and
early 2000s, a pair of Ferruginous Hawks nested in Oakville Township. Although
it seems likely that this species will again nest within this area, since they
were more than 100 miles out of range, their presence for so many years was a
testament to the quality of the habitat. Also notable, as an exceptional
record, was an over-wintering Mountain Bluebird in 2012-2013.
Data on species for this nomination were obtained from the e-bird database for 2010-2013, and is based mostly on observations from David Lambeth with a few observation by Chris Merkord. A total of 109 species were recorded for that period of time.
Conversion of grassland to other uses, especially, cropland, is an ongoing problem throughout the Great Plains.
Most of this area is privately owned by individuals who live elsewhere. Publically owned lands are as follows:University of North Dakota: 960 acres of native prairie that is operated as a research field station.Grand Forks County Water Resources Board: About 1000 acresNorth Dakota Trust Lands Department: 480 acresCrawford Wildlife Management Area: 160 acres
The area is mostly grassland, ranging from
upland prairie (on beach ridges) to wet meadow. Approximately xx% of the total area is
native prairie. Coulees and shallow depressions that hold water seasonally
provide habitat for waterfowl, rails and bitterns, and shorebirds. The English
Coulee Retention Dam project created permanent ponds.