Photo by Hillary Ehlen
Featured photo: Longspur Prairie Fund‘s Founder Peter Schultz and Assistant Director Cady Ann Rutter
With help from the Impact Foundation, we’ve broken up the numerous Fargo-Moorhead organizations into 12 categories. With more than 100 charitable organizations in the Fargo-Moorhead area alone, we know that you’ll come across an organization that tug at your heartstrings. Within the listings of local charities we’ve published, the organizations are split into subcategories that will make it easy for your charitable spirit to find its match. Here is our spotlight on the Impact Funds, featuring Longspur Prairie Fund.
Longspur Prairie Fund
4141 28th Ave. S., Fargo
“These guys are talking about us – where we live – they’re talking about us like we talk about the Amazon, the way we talk about polar bears or black rhinos.”
Ten years ago, Peter Schultz, a classical archaeologist by training, found himself looking at an “Endangered Ecologies of the World” display in the courtyard of London’s British Museum. On the display, the number one endangered ecology was labeled as the high grass prairies of North America, a pin on the map right in the middle of the Red River Valley. Something clicked for him. He turned to his wife, Darcie, and said, “We’ve gotta do something about this.”
Back home, Peter established the Longspur Prairie Fund, a nonprofit aimed at conserving our local natural heritage, right here in our own backyard. LPF’s mission is to foster the experiences, insights and pleasures found in the native landscapes of the Red River Valley. One of its primary goals is to protect the native plants, animals and habitats of our area while teaching the wisdom of the prairie through the arts and sciences.
According to Peter, the Red River Valley has little prairie left because it’s one of the most fertile basins in the world; so much of the land is cultivated.
So how do you talk about conservation where agriculture is king?
“You have to talk straight with the folks who own the land,” he said.
“We’re a pro-business and pro-farm conservation outfit. We aren’t out there trying to get somebody to take their prime soybean field out of production, turn it into a nature park,” said Peter. “What we want is the wet stuff – the stuff that nobody wants to farm, we want to turn that lead into gold. More to the point, we have to demonstrate concrete value to the farms and businesses of our area, or this will never work.”
In the game of ecological conservation, once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. The Longspur Prairie Fund aims to maintain the aspects of our local landscape that make it so unique. “This is happening in our own backyard, so we shouldn’t have to rely on outside agencies and resources from around the world to influence us, we ourselves should be the ones taking action. It’s important because it’s ours. This isn’t a melting glacier, it’s not a polar bear drowning in warming seas. It’s our local issue. Those other things attract a lot of attention—and they’re super important—but they’re always at an arm’s length. This is about us. About doing something here. This is our land.”
“We’re not saying that the Amazon isn’t important or what’s going on in Africa isn’t important. Of course, it’s important. All local habitats are part of the global ecological tapestry which makes our planet great. But for us, what’s important is what we have here and what we can do to protect it,” Peter shared. “Why don’t we take care of what we have? You can actually go there and walk around on it! You can see things that don’t exist anywhere else in the world!” While the prairie might not have the same ‘drama’ as the mountains of Colorado, the deserts of the Sahara or the rainforests of Costa Rica, it’s ours and it’s just as unique, just as special.”
“I think the visuals out there are enough to stop your heart. I mean, they’re fantastic. We have some of the most beautiful land in the world, and it’s only 30 minutes away from here.” -Peter Schultz
Back at the British Museum, Peter’s wife said to him, “Alright, go do something.” And he hasn’t stopped “doing something” since. Peter and the Longspur Prairie Fund urge everyone to get involved with the preservation of the beauty in their own backyard. He said, “If that ‘trying’ that you’re doing is at home, then it’s not ‘trying,’ it’s doing.”
From Director Peter Schultz
Giving Hearts Day‘s Impact
Giving Hearts Day rests at the very center of LPF’s annual public fundraising. It is, truly, the beating heart of our outfit’s programming and mission. It’s the only day of the year – the only day – during which we ask for public support. I mean, think about this for a second: How much non-profit mail do you get? For my wife and I, we get about five to 10 pieces of mail each year from each charity that we’re involved with; it’s a lot. So our thought is: Why not just do everything on one big day – go bonkers – and then leave folks alone for the rest of the year? I know that might seem a little strange, but it works for us and, more importantly, it works for our donors, our friends, our patrons and our sponsors – the people who make this whole thing go. If you’re looking for proof of the model’s power, I think you see it quite clearly via the massive growth Giving Hearts Day has seen over the last several years. I mean look at the growth curve! It’s bananas! That tells us that this model is strong, that people like to celebrate the year with a day of generosity, that it’s both fun and convenient to do so, and that it works.
A Surprising Need
Well, we’re always on the lookout for those little, tiny pieces of land that sit right outside most folks’ front windows: their front yards. Our new micro-prairie program installs a fully articulated prairie seed mix smack-dab in the front of a private house. They’re maintenance free, once established. The critters love them. And they’re beautiful. We’ll be opening enrollment in the fall of 2019, so if there are any folks out there who’d like to see a drop-dead gorgeous swath of prairie outside their house, give us a call!
What Longspur Prairie Fund Could Do With More Funds
Longspur Prairie Fund‘s primary focus revolves around working with local farmers to acquire wet and marginal cropland that can be restored to its native state. Once restored, a parcel can serve as habitat for local wildlife and a site for public recreation (hunting, camping, hiking, etc.), in addition to providing other ecological services. At Longspur Prairie Fund, we’re deeply involved in several large scale initiatives with other NGO partners, but money is always the issue. For us there is a very simple solution to the question of “How do you protect nature?” For us, you buy land, you restore it, then you open it to the public. Clean, simple and effective. But again, you gotta have the cash to make that impact real. We’re in the middle of a project that spans the entire length of the Red River Valley, from the Canadian border to South Dakota – but we need support to make the dream a reality.
We have big plans for a “Tiny House on the Prairie” that would serve as a retreat, study center, library and hunting cabin out on our Ulen Prairie site. We’re a ways off from making this happen, but who knows… Could be that there is an imaginative nature-lover reading this right now who loves the idea of a good old-fashioned cabin out on the prairie, a venue to support and inspire all those who love our area’s natural heritage.
Going from a fuzzy daydream to being a fully articulated organization that directly impacts over 10,000 acres of restored habitat in the High Plains is pretty exciting. But, for me, I think the most satisfying work is getting city folks back out onto the land. Our farming friends get to see it all the time, but you can forget how incredible, how unique, how majestic the High Plains are when you’re constantly surrounded by parking lots. Thousands of people from the Fargo-Moorhead and surrounding areas were directly impacted by our programming last year. We’re very proud of that growth.
- $240/year adopts 1 acre, making you a Prairie Partner
- $1,200/year adopts 5 acres, making you a Prairie Steward
- $2,400/year adopts 10 acres, making you a Prairie Warden
- $4,800/year adopts 20 acres, making you a Prairie Sun
*Every acre of restored prairie can store more than a metric ton of carbon, provide habitat for hundreds of species of wildlife, sustain hundreds of different species of native grasses and flowers and astonish you with the beauty of our region’s natural heritage.
More Impact Funds
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