NFWF's Northern Great Plains Initiative focuses on securing, enhancing, and restoring native prairie and wildlife. Launched in 2013, it is a long-term plan for large-scale conservation of native grasslands on which human inhabitants and wildlife populations depend.
Thanks to land stewardship by tribes, ranchers, and public agencies, much of the Northern Great Plains remains in largely native grasslands. Little of this habitat, however, is under strict protection. Once-abundant wildlife species have been depopulated by persecution and disease.
Currently, conversion of short-grass prairie to other uses (particularly cropland) and widespread energy development threaten the ecology of the Northern Great Plains. High commodity prices, engineering to develop drought-tolerant crops, and federal farm policy all contribute to agricultural conversion. With the recent resurgence of carbon-based energy exploration and extraction throughout the United States, the sage-grassland ecosystem of the energy-rich northern prairie is at a crucial crossroads.
NFWF's Northern Great Plains program is a priority initiative to develop a 10-year, approximately $10 million grant-making program focused on securing, enhancing, and restoring native prairie and wildlife in the region. Funding for this program will come from a combination of federal appropriations and private funds.
NFWF will support NGOs, tribes, ranchers, and other public and private interests to design and implement grassland conservation projects in four high-biodiversity sub-regions: east central and northeast Montana, southwest Saskatchewan and southeast Alberta; southwest South Dakota/northeast Wyoming; Nebraska Sandhills; and the Missouri Couteau/Prairie Potholes of North Dakota and South Dakota.
Focal species populations include grassland-nesting birds, black-footed ferret, swift fox, bison, and waterfowl. Areas of emphasis for funding will include:
- supporting projects that directly secure, enhance, or restore native prairie habitat and associated species,
- funding of ranching-based coalitions to implement priority projects to enhance habitat and restore native species,
- providing outreach coordinators to enroll private landowners in federal programs that provide incentives to establish best management practices and enhance wildlife populations,
- supporting tribes to conduct resource management planning that will enhance or restore native prairie species that are culturally significant to the tribes,
- supporting participation of tribal biologists in species conservation or recovery programs and increase access of tribes to federal incentive programs, and
- engaging new partners in delivery of conservation projects.