The Challenge: Thousands of acres of ancient grasslands remain in private ownership across the Southeast. These unprotected remnants are often tiny, some as small as 1-2 acres or less, with rare larger examples perhaps covering dozens of acres. Yet these fragments are all that is left of some grassland types, and securing them is imperative if we are to protect grasslands for future generations and prevent the extinction of grassland-dependent species.
Numerous factors make these privately-owned grasslands difficult to protect. Most are small and isolated, making their purchase difficult to justify for state and federal agencies, land trusts, or non-profit conservation organizations that tend to focus on larger land units. Some are located in or near urban centers or on lands slated for commercial or residential development and thus property values may be so expensive that buying them for conservation is not possible for organizations with limited budgets. There is also the issue of management of the land once it is purchased, as most Southeastern grasslands have to be maintained via mowing, prescribed fire, or other management to keep them from changing to shrubland or forest. Smaller sites tend to be more difficult to manage. Unfortunately with the focus now generally being placed on large landscape-scale projects, there is no safety net to ensure the continued survival of our last small remnant grasslands.
Where willing landowners exist, funding is needed to either purchase unprotected remnants outright (via fee title) or protect them through the purchase of a permanent conservation easement.
SGI’s Role: SGI’s research team will work to identify unprotected grasslands across our focal area in need of protection. Through our grants program, we will offer competitive matching grants to help purchase such lands or secure conservation easements.