240 million acres of grasslands provide Patagonia with a productive natural setting for countless plants and animals and a wealth of natural resources for people – including wool, meat and more. Also home to hundreds of precious lakes, rivers, wetlands and glaciers, Patagonia is perhaps most well known for its unique ranching culture where “gauchos” still herd sheep and cattle across the plains as they have done for more than a century.
Despite being arid and semi-arid, these temperate grasslands support many endemic plant and animal species. They are also crucial for soil conservation, erosion control, nutrient cycling and maintaining clean water sources – which, in turn, contributes to large watersheds.
In Patagonia, the grasslands have very little formal protection. Combined with inadequate grazing practices, demands to develop energy resources, increasing land subdivision and limited options for alternative revenues, grasslands are facing serious degradation and desertification.
Working Landscapes: Caring for the Grasslands by Working Together
Fortunately, Patagonia presents a tremendous opportunity for conservation. Most land is privately owned and landowners are willing to explore other approaches that might allow them to preserve the land they love in perpetuity, including restricting some land uses that may affect the long-term preservation of key grasslands and waters within their properties.
We support ranchers and other landowners, who often face tough land-use decisions, with alternatives that include the sustainable use of natural resources. To meet this goal, we are implementing the following approaches:
Private Lands Conservation Tools
Working with private landowners, we are helping implement conservation easements. They are voluntary agreement between landowners and a conservation organization and their goal is to conserve in perpetuity natural areas that are important for plants, animals and people by restricting certain land uses over the long term. Widely used in other regions, conservation easements have proven effective in lessening human impact on natural systems. At the same time, the areas under easement may allow for sustainable grazing and other land uses that are compatible with the maintenance of key species and ecological functions and processes. Learn more about conservation easements...
By working directly with ranchers, and in partnership with the wool industry, we are promoting sustainable grazing practices that reduce the risk of erosion and desertification affecting grasslands and freshwater systems. In partnership with rancher´s network OVIS XXI we developed a set of standards called the Grasslands Regeneration and Sustainability Standard (GRASS) which incorporates a whole-system approach into traditional grazing practices.
Also with OVIS XXI and Patagonia Inc., we have developed an innovative project to lessen the impact of sheep on the land. Through our “6 Million Hectares Campaign” we aim to put those hectares under sustainable grazing through the adoption of the GRASS Protocol within the next 5 years. Conservancy scientists are working closely with wool producers to provide scientific expertise and monitoring, as Patagonia Inc.’s wool purchase agreement encourages practices that support the long-term health of the region.
Protecting freshwater resources
Water is a vital resource for all of us. In Patagonia, freshwater is increasingly becoming a limited resource. In an effort to protect precious water sources, the Conservancy is promoting integrated watershed planning across the region including regulatory initiatives with local authorities. Learn more...
Healthy lands and waters supported by sustainable practices are the key to ensuring the future welfare of the plants, animals and people that call Patagonia home. If you would like to learn more about our work and help us assemble a mosaic of healthy grassland and freshwater systems across the region, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org