At one time, grass-dominated ecosystems in the southeastern United States covered hundreds of millions of acres. Today, these grasslands are mostly converted to agriculture or other uses. As a result, nearly three-quarters of all grassland species living here have experienced dramatic losses and continue to show signs of steep decline.
Funding sources, land bases, and field personnel for implementing grassland conservation and management already exist. What is needed is a mechanism that can effectively and efficiently direct ongoing and new efforts towards productive outcomes. In 2009, NFWF created the Southeastern Grasslands Conservation Program to help develop a system for more effective grassland bird conservation. Its goal is to reverse the population declines of more than a dozen species of grassland birds in the Southeast, including the Northern Bobwhite, Loggerhead Shrike, and Bachman’s Sparrow.
This initiative supports conservation activities that benefit three dominant grass-based habitats: agricultural grasslands (e.g., pasture and forage production), field borders and old field grasslands, and forested grasslands (e.g., longleaf pine).
Key conservation strategies for this program include:
- Establishment of a core group of professionals who will develop habitat management prescriptions, regional implementation strategies, and communication networks necessary to realize region-wide habitat and grassland bird population gains; and
- Direct habitat restoration and enhancement at spatial scales and in priority areas for meaningful conservation gains.