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Lansing – A new program is designed to protect Michigan’s disappearing grasslands, which are now among the rarest wildlife habitat types in the world.

The state Department of Natural Resources is teaming with Pheasants Forever and other groups on the Adopt-A-Game-Area program.

It encourages individuals and organizations to sponsor grassland habitat projects on state-managed lands they use. The first to be sponsored is the Maple River State Game Area, which includes portions of Clinton, Gratiot and Ionia counties.

DNR game bird specialist Al Stewart says grasslands provide important food resources and living spots to many wildlife species including deer, turkeys, rabbits and songbirds. They also improve water and air quality.

They’re especially valuable for crop pollinators such as bees and monarch butterflies. But many are being converted to agriculture and development.

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