Also called prairies, after a French word meaning ‘meadow grazed by cattle,’ grasslands are large rolling terrains dominated by grasses and grass-like plants. North America’s great prairie once extended from central Canada through the high plateau of Mexico; in the United States alone, the Great Plains prairie spanned 14 states and 140 million acres. Their vast expanses were once home to countless migratory birds, prairie dogs, herds of bison, pronghorn and elk, and grizzly bears. But more than 90 percent of North American grasslands have been swallowed up by development and invasive species.
The Nature Conservancy is active in the Hill Country, where much of the original savanna has been lost to urbanization and invasive species. We work to protect the watershed and maintain our Love Creek Preserve, which boasts some of the most scenic land in Texas and a cross-section of the most diverse habitats in the nation. Two major rivers—the San Antonio and the Guadalupe—flow through our Refugio-Goliad Prairie project, a 100 percent private lands initiative focused on enhancing and restoring coastal prairie, and proving critical habitat for the endangered Attwater’s prairie chicken. In northeast Texas, our 1,300-acre Clymer Meadow Preserve includes the largest protected remnant of native Blackland Prairie in Texas, an ecosystem that once covered more than 12 million acres in Texas and Oklahoma. This diverse and dramatic grassland habitat has been reduced to a mere 5,000 highly fragmented acres today, making it one of the most imperiled ecosystems in North America.
Check out some of the work we’re doing to protect Texas prairielands: