Approximately 90% of the Great Plains and ¾ quarters of the Northern Great Plains—WWF’s focal region—are privately owned. WWF is actively building partnerships with landowners such as ranchers who use sustainable practices on their land. These grasslands evolved to be grazed, and cattle primarily fill the niches that was once held by plains bison.
84% of the intact habitat in the Great Plains is privately owned (309 million acres). Ensuring that privately owned lands remain intact not only conserves biodiversity, but also keeps streams clean, stores water, reduces erosion, supports pollinators, and leaves carbon in the soil.
"One of my neighbors said it best what's good for a duck, is good for a deer, is good for a cow. And we all live on one small planet." Montana Rancher, Dale Veseth
Since 2011, WWF's Sustainable Ranching Initiative has been working to establish a productive dialogue between conservation interests and the ranching community in the NGP. We've also increased our engagement with players in the beef commodity marketplace. We're driven by the goal of maintaining intact grasslands by applying WWF's influence throughout the beef supply chain, and ensuring that intact grasslands are valued by a marketplace of informed consumers.
The primary goal of WWF's Sustainable Ranching Initiative (SRI) is to "keep ranchers ranching" to conserve high-quality grasslands. The SRI works with landowners, corporations, industry groups, NGOs, and government agencies to conserve grasslands at scale by generating a better working environment.
The NGP is home to 14 tribal reservations, which play a vital role in restoring keystone wildlife species, such as bison and black-footed ferrets.
Tribal communities in the Northern Great Plains have a desire to maintain and enhance the grassland ecosystems, which are home to culturally and biologically important prairie species including bison, prairie dogs, and migratory birds. Native peoples value the connection between environmental health, the health of their people, and protection of the environment for future generations.
WWF proudly partners with tribes throughout the Northern Great Plains in support of efforts to restore balance to the grassland ecosystem and the communities that live there. On tribal lands, WWF is a guest in support of local efforts. Our approach aims to bolster economic and community benefits, strengthening local wildlife management, and direct wildlife conservation activities. Our current work with tribal communities focuses on black-footed ferret and bison restoration, and a sustainable financing initiative to foster tribal wildlife program sustainability.
To many plains tribes, plains bison and black-footed ferrets are culturally important species. After an absence of many years from tribal lands, these communities are embracing the recovery of bison and ferret in the Northern Great Plains. WWF is working with tribal partners to restore these species to their rightful place in the ecosystem and at the heart of their people’s culture, economy, and lands.
Our current work with tribal communities focuses on black-footed ferret and bison restoration, and a sustainable nancing initiative to foster tribal wildlife program sustainability.
Policies such as the Farm Bill also play a vital role in assuring that the grasslands of the Northern Great Plains, and those that still exist within the broader Great Plains remain intact. Provisions within the Farm Bill such as the Sodsaver and the Conservation Reserve Program make it more economically feasible for ranchers and farmers to implement practices that are good for their business and for the environment.
WWF's science team continually refines planning models used to focus and prioritize our conservation actions. Ecoregional and landscape-level progress is tracked toward our conservation goals in the Northern Great Plains.
We use cutting-edge techniques to model species richness, assess future threats, and predict patterns of change across the region. WWF has been a science leader, engaging a variety of partners working in this region, and we continue to hold a high standard for designing smart strategies and updating planning as the world changes.