National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Awards $15.6 Million to Conserve Grassland Habitat and Wildlife in the Northern Great Plains

Conservation program’s record-breaking grant slate funds 26 projects across the region

Mule deer in a field near Loring, Montana

WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 13, 2023) – The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced $15.6 million in grants to protect vital grassland habitat in the Northern Great Plains while also strengthening ranching operations and communities. The 26 grants announced today will leverage $30.1 million in matching contributions to generate a total conservation impact of $45.7 million and benefit iconic wildlife species such as pronghorn, Sprague’s pipit, chestnut-collared longspur, Baird’s sparrow and greater sage-grouse.

“The vital conservation supported through these grants wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of dedicated partners throughout the Northern Great Plains,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “Our grantees work with willing and passionate Great Plains stakeholders—including private landowners, conservation nonprofits, Native Nations, Indigenous-led organizations, and state entities—to improve grazing management, conserve vulnerable lands, and preserve species across the landscape.”

This year’s record-breaking funding level is due to the collective investment of 11 funders, including a major contribution from the Bezos Earth Fund. The grants were awarded through the Northern Great Plains Program, a partnership between NFWF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bezos Earth Fund, Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, Altria Group, Cargill, Marathon Oil, Nestlé and Oxy. 

“Ambitious restoration of grasslands such as the Northern Great Plains is vital, as these are among the most endangered and least protected ecosystems on the planet,” said Cristián Samper, Managing Director and Leader for Nature Solutions, Bezos Earth Fund. “Restoration in this landscape presents a critical opportunity not only to protect some of the fastest declining species in North America, but also to protect and restore the cultural heritage and food sovereignty of Native Nations who have long called the Northern Great Plains home.” 

This year’s awards include projects in Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. These grants will contribute to the goals of the Northern Great Plains Business Plan by:

  • Restoring 175,000 acres
  • Improving management on 430,000 acres
  • Removing or improving 145 miles of fencing
  • Protecting 62,000 acres via voluntary conservation easements

“As a native North Dakotan, I know how important it is for our state to protect the interconnected grasslands of the Northern Great Plains,” said Zac Weis, Government and Community Relations Manager with Marathon Oil. “I’m proud Marathon Oil is partnering with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation on their Northern Great Plains Program to fund projects focused on habitat restoration, livestock management practices, education and outreach. These efforts will help improve conservation of North Dakota grasslands for generations to come.”

A complete list of the 2023 grants made through the Northern Great Plains Program is available here.    

The Northern Great Plains Program works on a voluntary basis with private landowners and local partners to conserve and restore native prairie and wildlife populations while also benefiting local ranching operations and tribal communities. The projects supported by these grants will tackle several conservation obstacles including encroachment of invasive species, human development and land use conversion, poor grazing practices, and conservation capacity.


About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate, foundation and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 6,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $8.1 billion. NFWF is an equal opportunity provider. Learn more at


Rob Blumenthal, 202-857-0166,