The Nature Conservancy is starting a new program to protect native prairie with money from the state's Outdoor Heritage Fund.
The first purchase under the Prairie Recovery project was 470 acres in Clay County for just over $600,000. It's located between two large prairies that are already protected.
Nature Conservancy Assistant State Director Tom Landwehr said nearly half of the remaining prairie in Minnesota is threatened by development.
"We're looking at this as the first step to a big 25-year comprehensive program to protect the last remnants of our prairie and try to make it a little more sustainable."
Landwehr said the The Nature Conservancy is trying a new management approach for this native prairie. The prairie will be leased to a farmer for grazing, with lease payments being used to pay the property taxes.
"So we're talking about creating a whole different way of looking at prairie conservation here where you don't necessarily take it off the tax rolls, you keep people working the land, you still provide the public recreation, you still provide the taxes," he said.
Landwehr said there's about 100,000 acres of unprotected native prairie in Minnesota.