Short grass prairie covers 300,000 square miles of the lower Great Plains of the United States, including portions of New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. The region supports more than 300 species of breeding, migrating, and overwintering bird species and is a hotspot for about two dozen bird species of high national importance, including the Lesser Prairie-Chicken.
Over time, half of the prairie has been degraded or converted to other uses, such as residential areas and highways. Large ranching operations compete with birds for habitat. Energy development, such as gas and oil wells, transmission lines, and the growing wind power industry, continue to place more stress on these bird populations.
The key to bird conservation on the short grass prairie is to develop and implement voluntary solutions to the conflict between “working” landscapes and bird populations. NFWF's Short Grass Prairie Stewardship Fund was created in 2011 to support its Short Grass Prairie Conservation Program. One of its primary goals is the recovery of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken, an "umbrella" species for numerous other grassland birds.
Funding activities for this program include:
- Restore, enhance, and protect short grass prairie habitat in priority core habitat blocks
- Provide technical assistance to public and private entities (including the energy development industry, ranchers, and public land managers) to manage prairie habitat most effectively
- Bring more targeted incentives to private landowners through USDA Farm Bill programs.