The prairies of the central U.S. are an iconic American landscape. Once home to legions of bison, prairie dogs, elk and grassland birds, the vast prairie to which early settlers flocked has been dramatically altered over the past 150 years. Less than one-third of this majestic landscape remains today.
The results of this decline are staggering. Almost three-quarters of the breeding bird species in the United States survive in the prairies of the Great Plains. Historically, some of these birds were widely distributed and found here in vast numbers. Today, grassland bird populations have declined more dramatically than any other group of North American birds.
The call for The Nature Conservancy and its partners to work harder, faster and smarter in this landscape is clear and couldn’t be more urgent. Recent efforts by the Conservancy have resulted in the development of a focused and innovative approach to grassland conservation: the Central Great Plains Grasslands Initiative. In an effort to develop a successful conservation template that can be applied to other areas, this project is focused on two key regions of the larger American prairies and incorporates the following conservation priorities:
- Work with oil and gas energy industry leaders to minimize impacts by developing new siting tools and improve reclamation practices.
- Collaborate with policy makers, agency staff and landowner groups to reduce destruction of native grasslands.
- Minimize impacts of commercial wind energy development on wildlife and their habitats by encouraging appropriate siting and mitigation.
- Facilitate the widespread use of prescribed fire as a tool to improve grassland health and grazing production.