Our Grassland Heritage
Protecting Our World's Most Imperiled Habitat
Vast expanses of grass and sky once covered about 110 million acres in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. These grasslands are home to some of our most iconic animals from the majestic bison to the black-footed ferret and the greater prairie chicken.
Today grasslands are the most imperiled habitat on Earth, with a rate of destruction exceeding that of tropical rainforests. Temperate grasslands alone, like those in the Midwest and Great Plains, are being lost at a rate eight times faster than they are being protected.
The many benefits grasslands provide are rarely recognized. They pull pollutants from the air and water, help prevent flooding and soil erosion, and capture and store carbon dioxide. Prairie grasses offer nourishing forage to grazing animals like bison and cattle. For hunters, bird-watchers and wildflower enthusiasts, prairies are priceless places to enjoy nature. North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota still retain some of the highest value, most intact prairies on Earth.
The Nature Conservancy is working with ranchers, public agencies and communities to protect 11.5 million acres of the best remaining prairie in the three states. We are sharing our expertise in controlled fire, grazing and invasive species management to help restore the vitality of grasslands on public and private lands. And, we are helping catalyze the growth of a new, grass-based economy in core grassland areas to help sustain them into the future.