THE
VALUES

© Shutterstock

WILDLIFE ON THE NORTHERN GREAT PLAINS

Black Foot Ferret in the NGP

Once found throughout the Great Plains and intermountain west, the black-footed ferret is a specialized predator of prairie dogs, relying on prairie dogs for food and their burrows for shelter and raising young. Consequently, their fate is directly linked to that of prairie dogs. Concerted efforts by federal and state agencies, tribal governments, zoos, conservation organizations, and private landowners are giving black-footed ferrets a second chance for survival.

Black-footed Ferret reintroduction sites

Six songbird species are only found in the Great Plains.

Populations of these species have each declined by 65-94% since they were counted in the 1960s. The most threatened birds include the Sprague's pipit, chestnut-collared longspur, McCown's longspur, Baird's sparrow, lark bunting and Cassin's sparrow.

Here, we show the overlap in grassland bird species across the ecoregion, which highlights areas of particularly high diversity in northern Montana/southern Canada.

Most Affected Species

Endemic Grassland Bird Species

10 - 12 Species

7 - 9 Species

4 - 6 Species

1 - 3 Species

Large Scale Bison Recovery

WWF is dedicated to restoring the plains bison, North America's largest mammal, to its historic place in the Northern Great Plains. Once numbering tens of millions across North America's grasslands, the plains bison was nearly eliminated by the 1880s. Heroic efforts over the past century have sparked the return of the bison to the prairie. Native Americans, with their strong cultural affinity for bison, are leading this recovery effort. WWF is partnering with several tribes to restore bison.

Bison Historic Range

Original

1870 Bison Range

1880 Bison Range

1884 Bison Range

1889 Bison Range

"Six grassland songbirds have declined by as much as 80% since the 1960s. Habitat loss has played a major role in their decline."

WILDLIFE OF THE NGP

The Northern Great Plains still supports a tremendous array of biodiversity and intact grasslands play an important role in storing water, filtering nutrients and runoff, reducing erosion and storing carbon.

95 MAMMAL SPECIES
WWF is dedicated to restoring the plains bison, North America's largest mammal, to its historic place in the Northern Great Plains.
121 FISH SPECIES
41 REPTILE & AMPHIBIAN SPECIES
300 BIRD SPECIES
Grassland birds, as a group, face the steepest decline of all North American birds.
WWF provides
training on black-footed ferret reintroduction techniques, population and habitat monitoring, and sylvatic plague mitigation.
1,594 PLANT SPECIES
THOUSANDS INVERTEBRATES SPECIES

THE PEOPLE OF THE NORTHERN GREAT PLAINS

WWF is working with ranchers to learn more about how grassland birds rely on healthy grasslands and working ranch lands for shelter, food, and breeding grounds. Also, 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.

Recent Demographics of the Northern Great Plains.

The Northern Great Plains ecoregion, which comprises approximately 25% of the total area of the Great Plains of North America, remains largely intact, thanks in part to its harsh climate, which has made agricultural expansion relatively dificult until the most recent decades.

Population Change

11% / 40%

1% / 10%

-1% / 0%

-5% / -2%

-9% / -6%

-15% / -10%

-15% or less

© Day's Edge Productions / WWF-US

THE RANCHING COMMUNITY

More than 75 percent of the remaining intact grasslands of the Northern Great Plains are privately owned and mostly managed as ranchlands for livestock production. Ranching leaves grasslands intact, protects vital habitat for birds and other grassland species, moderates run-off, and sequesters carbon in the soil. Since 2011, WWF's Sustainable Ranching Initiative has helped establish a productive dialogue between conservation interests and the ranching community to ensure that ranching stays viable and sustainable.

WATCH VIDEO

"Beautiful things don't ask for attention"

- James Thurber.

Kate Rasmussen is a young rancher and writer who is on a mission to change our impression of the daily life of a rancher.

"The North American prarie’s soil is like an old-growth forest. Once plowed, it can't be replaced. Right now, less than 2% is protected." – Martha Kauffman, Managing Director, WWF’s Northern Great Plains Program

@ Thomas Lee / WWF-US

TRIBAL LEADERSHIP AND TRIBAL COMMUNITIES

WWF is one of a few organizations working with tribal communities on wildlife conservation and management across the Northern Great Plains. WWF is deepening our engagement with tribal communities, building capacity for programs that protect native wildlife and intact grassland ecosystems, and supporting efforts to improve the lives of their people. At Fort Belknap and Fort Peck Reservations, we will work with tribes to ensure their programs are ecologically, culturally, and financially self-sustaining.

CASE STUDY

"At Fort Peck we will work with tribes to ensure their programs are ecologically, culturally, and financially self-sustaining."

WATER FOR COMMUNITIES

The region filters and stores clean water for communities in the Northern Great Plains, to cities such as St. Louis and Omaha, all of the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Trillions of gallons of water are filtered through the NGP.

It becomes drinking water for families in St. Louis, and provides healthy fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. Each acre that remains unplowed stores thousands of gallons that would be otherwise lost.

THE
THREATS

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