Brandenburg prairie project a first in nation

The prairie will be open to the public, and once the prairie is back to its natural state, other uses to be considered, include grazing for bison.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has several prairie projects throughout Minnesota and Iowa. One of the earliest projects is the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge located 30 miles east of Des Moines, Iowa.

The federal government built a prairie learning center for people to come and learn more about the prairie ecosystem. Busloads of school kids visit the center each day.

In Fergus Falls there is another prairie project, known as the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center. It has a dormitory on the site for students and teachers to study prairie habitat.

"We want to devote every inch of the land to natural prairie," Cole said.

Naming the prairie

At the moment, there is no name for the prairie, but Brandenburg thought it would be a good idea if the community named the site. "There will be a box at the Brandenburg Gallery for people to submit names for the prairie," Brandenburg said. "They can stop by or call them in."

The Brandenburg Gallery is located on Main Street in Luverne next to Cook's Clothing. The number for the gallery is 507-283-1884.

Dedication ceremony

"Never in my wildest dreams would I think we would have a prairie acquisition in two years," Brandenburg said. "I am so proud of acquiring this prairie. It is the most important thing I have been involved in."

The sale was completed Wednesday, June 27, and a dedication ceremony will be held on Aug. 9 and 10. There will be a dinner and slide show by Jim Brandenburg. Tickets for the dinner will be for sale.

Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior, has been invited to come, as well as Minnesota legislators.

The prairie dedication will also be the last stop on a tour from the Twin Cities called the "Blue Goose Centennial Celebration." It will stop at many wildlife refuges in Minnesota. Those participating in the weeklong trip will attend the dedication ceremony for the Rock County refuge.

Brandenburg poster

A Brandenburg poster, "Dream back the bison, sing back the swan" is being sold around the United States to raise money to help pay for restoring the prairie. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service donated 5,000 posters to the Foundation for use in its fund-raising campaign. "I was given freedom to design it," Brandenburg said.

Posters have been distributed to national refuges around the country as well as select national parks, DNR offices, and the Brandenburg Gallery in Luverne.

"All of the profits go to the Brandenburg Prairie Foundation," Creeger said.

"The idea for the poster evolved over time," Cole said. "It centered around Jim Brandenburg, who always had the idea in the back of his mind."

The Brandenburg Prairie Foundation

The Brandenburg Prairie Foundation was established in 1999 with a mission statement to "Educate, promote, preserve, and expand native prairie in southwest Minnesota."

The Foundation was started through the efforts of Jim and Judy Brandenburg and a number of local residents as a way to give back to the community in which they were raised. "I wanted to give a little bit back," Jim Brandenburg said.

The Foundation has been working in partnership with the Luverne School District to develop the land located to the west of the new Elementary School. That land includes an 11-acre tract which will be restored to natural prairie for use by students and visitors to Luverne.

This recent purchase is the next step in the completion of the Foundation's mission statement. A long-range goal of the Foundation is to open a prairie learning center where visitors can learn more about the ecosystem.

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