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Grasslands institute gets $495K grant for Cumberland Plateau

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Southeastern Grasslands Institute is developing a grasslands conservation plan for the Cumberland Plateau in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee, thanks to a $495,000 federal grant.

The money from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will help SGI prioritize habitat needs for at least 185 species of conservation concern, according to a news release from the institute at Austin Peay State University. Those species include at least 125 grassland plants and at least 60 animals that make grasslands their homes.

Dwayne Estes, the institute’s co-founder and executive director, said the 14-million-acre (5.6-million-hectare) Cumberland Plateau has a rich history of forest conservation.

“Sadly, sparsely wooded, grassy ecosystems of the Plateau have received comparatively little focus even though they covered as much as 40% of the Plateau landscape and support the overwhelming majority of species of conservation concern,” Estes said.

Many native grasslands have disappeared over the past century due to fire suppression and the demise of large grazing animals, according to the release.

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