Thanks for a Great Year of Conservation
During this defining period for our planet, action for nature has never been more important. Thank you for joining us as we tackle the biggest challenges of our time.
Explore some of the wonderful projects, science and collaborations your support is making possible!
Tatanka Return to Rosebud Tribe
For the Lakota people living on the Rosebud reservation, their relationship with bison runs deep. It is a sacred bond, as the tatanka (a.k.a. bison or buffalo) have provided food, clothing, shelter and tools to the Lakota for millennia. This way of living was brought to a screeching halt when bison were hunted to near extinction by European and American settlers. To support Native-led efforts and begin repairing what’s been broken, TNC has transferred more than 55 bison from our Cross Ranch preserve to the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO), an arm of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. As part of the Wolakota Regenerative Buffalo Range, these animals will provide cultural opportunities, create economic opportunity, combat climate change, regenerate the health of the prairie and strengthen food sovereignty within the Native nation.
Investing in Foodscapes
With so much of our former grassland in agricultural production, investing in nature-based solutions for farms and ranches can provide big benefits to producers and consumers. Practices like cover cropping, reduced tillage and smart nutrient management could sequester millions of tons of carbon in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. That’s why we’re working with farmers and their advisors to increase the adoption rate of these practices in a way that minimizes risk. This year, we’ve worked with agricultural service providers in Minnesota to help dozens of farmers plant cover crops on more than 4,500 acres, enrolled 1,500 new acres in our Ecosystem Services Market Consortium pilot program and launched a nutrient certification program for businesses that work with farmers in Minnesota.
Sustainable Grazing Study
Grazing has the largest footprint of any agricultural activity, making it imperative that producers can track and manage these lands for clean water, climate and biodiversity benefits, social and economic outcomes. That’s why a research team led by The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund recently published a study detailing ‘sustainability indicators’ to create a common set of criteria for assessing the sustainability of U.S. ranches. This set includes ecological, social and economic indicators, which researchers hope will lead to a better and more holistic understanding of ranch-level sustainability across our nation’s some 770 million acres of rangelands.
Forest Assisted Migration Project
In northeastern Minnesota, partners in the Forest Assisted Migration Project have been hard at work to reforest the Northwoods with climate-smart tree species that will survive and thrive in a changing climate. The project goals include collecting seeds from species predicted to adapt well, forming a collaborative of tree nurseries to meet to the increasing demand for seedlings and establishing partnerships and purchasing agreements — including one recently signed by TNC to purchase 60,000 climate-smart seedlings for 2022 planting.
Breathing (and Breeding) Room for Blanding’s Turtles
In southeastern Minnesota, near our Weaver Dunes preserve, lives a breeding population of Blanding’s turtles. A state-threatened species in Minnesota and endangered in South Dakota, Blanding’s turtles rely on upland, sandy prairies for breeding habitat. For this population, the closest suitable nesting habitat sits on the opposite side of a busy road from the shallow lakes and wetlands that female turtles emerge from each year. To make the journey a little safer, we acquired and are now restoring a former farm field that will provide additional and safer nesting habitat.
Borrowing From Beavers
Taking a page from nature’s engineers, our western South Dakota conservation team has been busy as beavers to restore degraded prairie headwater streams. They installed 57 beaver dam analog structures on private lands this year, which are designed to mimic the effect of beavers by slowing down and holding back water on the landscape. These structures will also help improve stream health as well as riparian and rangeland health, benefitting wildlife, ranchers and everyone downstream.
Seeds of Resilience Tool Takes Off
We know that species diversity is critical to successful restoration work in our grasslands. That’s true whether on the prairie, in the forest or along our coasts. But the foundation for species diversity is the thing we’re not talking about enough: genetic diversity. That’s why our science team is working to ensure genetic diversity in grassland restorations through their Seeds of Resilience Tool, working with partners across landscapes to build resilience in these critically important ecosystems. Since launching last year, we’ve mapped 331,148 populations of plant species and restored 600 acres of prairie across Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Soil Health Gets a Boost
In Minnesota, where adoption of cover cropping and wetland restoration is slow, TNC advocates have been celebrating a big win at the Legislature! Thanks to the 163 advocacy supporters who spoke up to their lawmakers about the need for soil health funding, $4 million was recently allocated from the Clean Water Fund to accelerate the adoption of cover crops on Minnesota farms. This investment will pay off in the form of cleaner water, improved farm yields and carbon storage.
Midwest Climate Adaptation Science Center Formed
The Department of the Interior recently announced the establishment of a new Climate Adaptation Science Center which will be hosted at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said, “The Midwest Climate Adaptation Science Center will better position us to mitigate climate impacts while focusing needed attention to Tribal and state resources that are particularly vulnerable to climate change.” And because climate change is expected to disproportionately impact Indigenous people and communities of color, TNC appreciates the USGS’ commitment to include Tribal, rural and urban areas in its work.
Nature and Climate Solutions for Minnesota
Early in 2021, we dropped Nature and Climate Solutions for Minnesota, a report detailing the need for and benefits of investments in nature. Cover crops, reforestation and rain gardens, are all examples of nature-based solutions that can help us mitigate and adapt to our changing climate. We also launched Trees.Water.Soil., a storytelling campaign exploring the many nature-based solutions available in Minnesota and the people who are already putting them to work.
South Dakota Grassland Easements
In South Dakota, we’ve recently expanded the capacity of our grassland conservation easement program. Welcoming McKenna Hammons and Megan Zopfi to the team this year, we’re doubling down on our efforts to support the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in protecting more of the state's best remaining grassland habitat. Working with more than 200 private landowners across South Dakota in 2021, we’re proud to be increasing grassland habitat for important species like meadowlarks, marbled godwits, milkweed and more!
Conservation By the Numbers
How many trees we planted in northeastern Minnesota in 2021.
Notes sent to lawmakers this year urging climate action.
Funding designated for cover crops, wetlands and more in MN.
Native plant populations mapped through Seeds of Resilience.