MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- State environmental leaders and conservation groups say a $3.5 billion project will help preserve Minnesota's prairies.

The Star Tribune reports state and federal agencies and conservation groups will work together to acquire or protect more than 2.2 million acres of prairies, wetlands and grasslands.

The project is expected to take 25 years, and focus in the western part of the state.

Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr says only 1 percent of the state's native prairie still exists. He says what remains may soon disappear as well, and the state is taking steps to protect as much as it can.

Landwehr says Minnesota can use sales tax revenue generated by the Legacy Amendment to buy land, and keep it as prairie.