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The benefits that buffalo once provided the Plains grasslands are now being fulfilled through today’s domestic ruminants, specifically cattle. The integration of livestock onto working lands through regenerative practices has multiple benefits for natural resources as well as other wildlife and microorganisms that inhabit the prairies.
Increased soil health in the Prairie Pothole Region enhances the management of water in a landscape that is prone to both drought and flooding. Through a partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Federation (NFWF), DU conservation staff will reach out to farmers and ranchers across eastern South Dakota to prescribe soil health principles and associated practices based off on-site soil data analysis.
Throughout the PPJV, retirements of the “boomer generation” have left behind big losses in capabilities. With an eye on the future, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center (NPWRC) filled five vacated positions with talented early-career Research Scientists.
The Rancher's Stewardship Alliance (RSA) is a rancher-led nonprofit in north-central Montana that works to steward the rich habitat of the northern prairies in the name of strengthening the rural community and economy. In doing so, they collaborate with conservation organizations and state and federal agencies to identify ways that conservation and ranching can work together.
Special Edition: Wind Energy
The PPJV evaluated the current science and tools to inform energy development and provide recommendations for responsible development that are shared among the partnership. These assessments led to conception of the Guiding Principles for Wind Energy Development. This suite of guiding principles is intended to convey common elements among PPJV partners and help facilitate coordination that supports bird-friendly wind energy development in the region.
The Habitat and Population Evaluation Team is using data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) to evaluate potential displacement of birds at wind farms. Bird-habitat models using stop-level BBS data are the foundation of this effort. These models predict bird occurrence or density across all or portions of seven states as a function of landscape composition and configuration, climate, weather, and topography, as well as factors influencing bird detection on surveys.
A melding of models and tools developed through a decades-long collaboration between the USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center and the USFWS Habitat and Population Evaluation Team led to the creation of the Avian-Impact Offset Method (AIOM). This science-based tool converts the biological value lost by development and estimates the acres of grasslands and number of wetlands needed to compensate for displaced pairs of grassland birds and waterfowl.
In April and May 2021, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks with the American Wind Wildlife Institute hosted a virtual workshop to open dialogue among stakeholders and collaboratively develop strategies for minimizing wildlife conflict while expanding wind energy specific to Montana. A recurring takeaway was the importance of developers reaching out to state agencies as early as possible in project planning, and much of the discussion centered around the state of wind-wildlife science.
The Meadowlark Initiative is a new statewide strategy initiated by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, tapping into the collective insights, resources, and efforts of conservation, agriculture, and industry partners to enhance, restore, and sustain native grasslands in North Dakota.
Pheasants Forever and twelve dedicated partners have been selected to receive a major Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) award from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for habitat delivery efforts in north-central Montana.
Rangelands are being lost at an alarming rate – more than a million acres lost annually. Grazing by livestock is the common thread that maintains these working rangelands at an ecosystem scale. As a result, successful conservation relies on working with landowners and ranchers to improve working rangelands to benefit wildlife and the communities that rely on this land and have stewarded them for generations.
Volunteer fence maintenance a win-win for landowners, big game, at Woody Island Pronghorn Migration Fence Modification Workshop
This summer, an effort between conservation organizations and Blaine County ranchers at the Louie Petrie Ranch north of Turner, Montana offered two days of hands-on learning, practical ranch work, and collaboration to benefit ranching and pronghorn migration in the region.
Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever announced a historic effort in February to protect and conserve North America’s upland habitats by launching its first comprehensive, $500 million Call of the Uplands® National Campaign. The bold plan encompasses habitat conservation, education & outreach, and national advocacy strategies to conserve 9 million acres, engage 1.5 million outdoor participants, and enact landscape-level national policy for wildlife and rural communities.
The State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) practice within the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is an innovative approach which allows state fish and wildlife agencies, along with their federal and NGO partners, to define priority species and landscapes for practice delivery. North Dakota has several designated SAFE projects, but among the most relevant to the goals of the PPJV is the Declining Grassland Bird SAFE.
2020 was a spectacular year for Montana Ducks Unlimited (DU) given the operational hurdles faced throughout the year. Montana DU kept the bar high with record-breaking fundraising dollars, technical assistance acres, and protected acres. With the help of private landowners, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and land trusts, Montana DU protected over 64,000 acres of grassland, wetland, and farmland throughout the state. Landowner interest and demand for conservation programs in Montana is strong.
The North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition (NDGLC) established a mentoring program that provides a network of producer mentors who are available to consult with other producers. Mentors share knowledge in areas including, but not limited to, grazing management, water development, wildlife management, cover crops, fencing, value of crop aftermath grazing, cutting winter feed costs, and profitable ranch management.
Recent efforts spotlighting the crisis of grassland loss and grassland bird population declines have energized partnership-based conservation work across the Great Plains. Over the past year, several new international grassland conservation initiatives were launched including the JV8 Central Grasslands Initiative, the Central Grasslands Roadmap, and the Road to Recovery, an initiative to bring back 3 billion birds. Together, these initiatives seek to leverage and strengthen partnerships to bolster resources needed for filling information gaps and increasing on-the-ground grassland conservation to reverse the continuing declines.
In November 2020, Audubon Dakota and partners initiated the North Dakota Conservation Forage Program (CFP) with a $6.9 million grant award from the North Dakota Industrial Commission Outdoor Heritage Fund. This grant is the largest investment in the fund’s history. The CFP will support private landowners in converting up to 25,000 acres of cropland back to native grass, while facilitating the adoption of adaptive land management to improve grassland and soil health through livestock integration.
As an “all bird” Joint Venture, the PPJV is committed to addressing the conservation needs of all avian species that use the region. This is a daunting task given the diversity of bird species, landscapes, and variability in our understanding of limiting factors for many species. However, grassland and wetland habitat loss are generally recognized as the primary causes of declining breeding bird populations in the PPR and serve as common denominators for conservation among the four bird groups: waterfowl, shorebirds, waterbirds, and landbirds.
With 2020 retreating further in the rearview, it becomes easier to look forward with anticipation at the promise and unknown potential of a new year. Here at the PPJV we are ushering in 2021 with a heightened commitment to the integration of communications with our collaborative conservation efforts. As we do so, it’s important to think beyond the communications activities we will be delivering, considering what we hope to accomplish in doing so.
This past August, the PPJV and NDGLC co-hosted a Grasslands Policy Tour showcasing ND agricultural operations that focus on soil health and successfully integrate grassland conservation, annual cropping and wildlife conservation into their business models.
The ND Grasslands Policy Tour in August drew diverse participants from across the state and country. Two ranches that focus on soil health and successfully integrate grassland conservation, annual cropping and wildlife conservation into their business models comprised the tour.
The workshop and panel discussion began with a summary of highlights of the tour by facilitator and rancher Josh Dukart of Seek First Ranch. Following Dukart, 15 panelists addressed several overarching topics, answered questions from the audience and discussed opportunities for collaboration between agriculture, conservation, and political leaders.
The NDGLC was established in 1996 to promote the health and sustainability of the 13.5 million acres of grazing lands in North Dakota through education about the values and multiple benefits of well-managed grazing resources and by voluntary actions.
Compelled by alarming grassland loss rates in the Great Plains, seven Joint Ventures, together with ConocoPhilips and USDA Farm Service Agency, have embarked on a cooperative native grassland mapping project to identify potentially undisturbed grasslands with the goal of strategizing habitat conservation efforts across this large geographic expanse.
The end of 2020 is in sight. In an unprecedented year of pandemic and social unrest, the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture (PPJV) partnership continues to persevere, albeit from our home offices with ever-present Zoom meetings. Our partnership, as well as all Migratory Bird Joint Ventures, were born of challenges, and we have found many opportunities therein. I believe it is ever more important to celebrate and reflect on successes in these uncertain times and reaffirm our ability to find opportunity in the greatest of challenges.
Josh began working as the Science Coordinator for the PPJV in January this year. While Josh may be new to the PPJV partnership, he has extensive experience working with Joint Ventures. Prior to joining the PPJV, Josh served as the Science Coordinator for the Intermountain West Joint Venture (IWJV) for 10 years. While there, much of his work was focused on conservation planning as well as technical transfer of science and JV objectives to conservation programs, particularly with NRCS.
Lucinda joined the PPJV team as a Communications Specialist in August, a position which was made possible thanks to the partnership of Ducks Unlimited and NRCS. In large part, her mission here is two-fold: 1) bolster internal communications so we are more connected and more aware of the goings-on within the PPJV; and 2) expand external communications so we can bring our science to a broader constituency and build support for wetland and grassland habitat conservation at scale.
U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs in the Prairie Pothole Region are critical for the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture (PPJV) to achieve our shared goals and objectives identified in the 2017 Implementation Plan and our state-level step down plans. A new agreement between the PPJV and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) paves the way to strengthen this important partnership.
With recent turnover in PPJV Management Board co-chairs and partner representatives, and the impending transition to a new coordinator, it is timely to reflect on our origins to reaffirm our cooperative direction and goals.
North Dakota Natural Resources Trust was recently funded for Phase III of its Working Grasslands Partnership program by the ND Outdoor Heritage Fund.
The new 618-acre Prairie Dunes Wildlife Management Area and its 20 restored prairie pothole wetlands near Gary, Minnesota are flourishing.
Audubon’s Conservation Ranching program functions as market-based conservation, offering incentives for good grassland stewardship and “bird-friendly” management practices through a certification label on beef products.
The Wolsey Important Bird Area in eastern South Dakota provides critical resting, refueling and staging habitat for over 150,000 Sandhill Cranes each spring including nearly 40% all Greater Sandhill Cranes.
I think most successful partnerships, particularly those within the joint venture community, adapt and change over time. In such a dynamic, partners work together with incredible ingenuity and commitment to accomplish something greater than themselves or any one organization.
“All habitat is local” is an apt saying, especially when it comes to an exciting, new, pilot program encouraging community-driven habitat conservation and public access in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) of South Dakota.
Opening day of duck season is an exciting occasion, especially for youngsters hunting for the first time. During the 2017 North Dakota youth waterfowl hunting season, Ducks Unlimited volunteers took a group of kids hunting at the Coteau Ranch.
Agricultural producers in eastern South Dakota can get financial assistance for a variety of conservation practices focusing on improving soil health.
The South Dakota Grassland Coalition and its partners collaborated to produce and release a short video story each month during 2018 to promote healthy soils, grasslands, and ecosystems.
The North Dakota Natural Resources Trust, along with their partners on the Outdoor Heritage Fund grant, are offering producers access to resources to keep their expired and expiring CRP acres in grass through the Working Grasslands Partnership Phase II.
Looking back over a generation of accomplishments, one thing is certain: our strength lies in the diversity of partners who have come together around our common goals. The impressive numbers of grassland and wetland habitats that our joint efforts have protected are testament to this fact.
The North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) steering committee convened the Future of Waterfowl Workshop September 25-27 at the USFWS National Conservation and Training Center as a catalyst for the next iteration of the Plan.
Every year since 1987, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel across the U.S. Prairie Pothole Region have visited approximately 6,000 wetlands to count waterfowl as part of the Four-Square-Mile Breeding Waterfowl Survey.
North Dakota agricultural producers can get help diversifying their operations and improving soil health. Ducks Unlimited and its partners worked with producers in southeastern North Dakota to build a simple, useful program called Cover Crop and Livestock Integration Project (CCLIP), which provides financial assistance to farmers and ranchers to add sustainable, mixed-operation practices.
Deuel County, South Dakota, is home to some of the most productive breeding waterfowl habitat in the Prairie Pothole Region - reason enough for several partners to work with the Even family to restore 32.5 acres of wetlands on their farm. Add upland nesting bird habitat to the mix, and the project was a winner all around.
Farming, ranching, hunting, and wildlife management go hand-in-hand at Daybreak Ranch in central South Dakota. Located north of Highmore, family-owned and operated Daybreak Ranch comprises 8,000 acres of private land consisting of native grassland, cropland, wetlands, food plots, and tree belt plantings. These diverse habitats support wildlife in abundance, especially ring-necked pheasants, white-tailed deer, pronghorn, ducks, sharp-tailed grouse, and prairie chickens. A number of these species provide exciting and productive hunting opportunities for hunters from across the country.
With so many distractions confronting the people of this country, it seems gaining attention for land conservation – and ultimately wildlife conservation – is a tall order indeed. We have all viewed efforts to promote the conservation of oceans, wetlands, and even forests. However, we hear little about “grasslands,” yet, from a global perspective, temperate grasslands are one of the most altered biomes with the highest risk of disappearing.
South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks and PPJV Partners Continue to Deliver Wetland Restoration Projects on Public and Private Lands
In the fall of 2016, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Private Lands Habitat Program, along with Pheasants Forever, and private landowners completed 30 wetland restorations working across 3 project areas on public and private lands in northeastern South Dakota. These areas provide important habitat for waterfowl and other wetland and grassland dependent wildlife. Furthermore, several of the restored tracts provide great public access for waterfowl hunting and bird watching.
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) of the 1985 Food Security Act (a.k.a. Farm Bill) provides substantial benefits to grassland birds. Populations of grassland birds are declining at a steeper rate than any other group of North American birds and the Northern Great Plains has the highest diversity of grassland bird species on the continent, therefore optimizing the enrollment of CRP in this region is significantly important.
Grassland bird populations have shown the most widespread and significant declines of any avifaunal group in North America. The Prairie Pothole Region supports the core breeding populations for four of the most rapidly declining species, specifically Sprague’s pipit, chestnut-collared and McCown’s longspur, and Baird’s sparrow. Through the leadership of the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture, the Grassland Bird Technical Subcommittee is leading the development of a tri-national grassland bird conservation plan to address conservation needs throughout the full-annual cycle for these species.
Soil health practices have become increasingly popular among producers across North and South Dakota, and Ducks Unlimited (DU) is seeking opportunities to develop associated wildlife benefit and provide financial assistance to interested farmers. By incorporating more diversified crop rotations, reducing tillage, and incorporating cover crops, producers can improve soil structure, improve water infiltration and storage, increase organic matter, and increase microbial diversity in their soil.
I’m sure most, if not all of you, remember a phase used in 1992 by James Carville, a campaign strategist for a presidential candidate. He coined the phrase, “it’s the economy, s****d” and this was repeated over and over during the campaign for what became a successful bid for the White House. I wonder if those of us working in land conservation need to think about employing such an approach?
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Small Wetlands Acquisition Program perpetually protected almost 350,000 wetland acres and over one million grassland acres through conservation easements from 1987 through 2015. In addition, over 250,000 acres of land has been purchased in fee title and these lands are open to the public and provide recreational opportunities.
Like all good ideas, the Honey Bee and Monarch Butterfly Partnership started with a seed. More exactly, a diverse mix of seeds. This new voluntary conservation program distributes seed mixes to landowners, creating high diversity habitat for pollinating insects and upland birds on private lands.
As the South Dakota Prairie Butterfly Garden enters its fourth growing season, the perennial plants are spreading out of their original plots, making the garden appear like a South Dakota prairie. This outdoor learning area for adults and kids focuses on pollinators and the plants that sustain them. It is a place where people can get outside and discover how butterflies live, growing their understanding and appreciation of the conservation efforts involved with declining wildlife.
Established in 1937, DU has conserved more than 13.6 million acres of waterfowl habitat, thanks to partners and supporters across the continent. Today, the Great Plains Region office in Bismarck, N.D. works with landowners and partners to conserve grasslands and wetlands in the “Duck Factory.”
With the New Year around the corner, I hope each of you will have more positive reflections than negative about the year 2015. Not only do individuals reflect on their past, but so do organizations and partnerships. In doing so, they hope to recognize their foundation and gain wisdom from both successes and failures, allowing for thoughtful direction for the future. Learn more about the PPJV's and the Migratory Bird Joint Venture Coordinators' visions.
Despite functioning as individual self-directed partnerships, joint ventures hold dear an unwritten rule – “we rise and fall together.” With a partnership attitude and community success approach, the JV coordinators examined current challenges, ongoing strengths, and our future direction at a recent meeting in Chicago. The discussion and debate resulted in a group statement on where JVs have been and where they are going.
Good stewardship of private lands is critical for conservation of at-risk wildlife populations in the Prairie Potholes Region and beyond. In response, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service teamed up with The Nature Conservancy of Montana to develop a tool that will remove or reduce threats to species on privately owned ranching and agricultural lands while giving assurances to landowners against further regulatory responsibilities in the event any of the species included in an agreement are listed under the ESA in the future.
The whooping crane is a federally endangered species that relies on land in North and South Dakota to help meet its energy needs during migration and reproduction. Working with researchers from the USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, members of the Habitat and Population Evaluation Team office used whooping crane observations, landscape data, and a model-based approach to identify habitat for whooping cranes migrating through the Dakotas.
Much of the Bakken Formation of Montana and North Dakota overlaps with important breeding waterfowl, shorebird, and waterbird habitat in the U.S. Prairie Pothole Region. In 2014, PPJV partners initiated a collaborative effort to investigate the potential impact of oil development and extraction in this area on breeding ducks. We describe the results of the effort in 2014 and 2015.
Landowners hold different values driving their decisions about how to manage their lands. rom the perspective of the PPJV, we value intact grasslands and wetlands across the landscape. Even though other users may not hold this same perspective, we respect their values so may they respect ours.
This May the PPJV and the South Dakota Grassland Coalition hosted a field tour of “Grassland Conservation on Private Lands” near Aberdeen, South Dakota. The purpose of the tour was to expose decision-makers to landowner perspectives on grassland conservation and land change, and to provide opportunities for developing new partnerships. Approximately 50 participants from across the nation attended the event.
Trumpeter swans were nearly wiped out by North American settlers. For 112 years, no swans called Iowa home. But that has changed. Since 1995 the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and its local partners have released 1,150 trumpeter swans, as well as restored wetlands and shallow lakes.
For more than 50 years The Nature Conservancy has been working in the Prairie Pothole Region. Since 2010 TNC has provided more than $14 million in matching funds to NAWCA projects, effectively leveraging more than $25 million in federal funds for wetland and grassland protection.
We continue to diligently proceed as a partnership on developing the side boards and content for the update to our 2005 PPJV Implementation Plan. State-level step-down plans will be included in the updated Implementation Plan. These step-down plans, known as PPJV State Tactical Plans, will provide details on how the Implementation Plan goals and objectives for the four bird groups will be implemented in each of the PPJV states.
The HAPET office and PPJV Technical Committee teamed up with the Montana conservation partners to expand the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) throughout the state. In recent years, analysis of BBS data has indicated that breeding populations of several species of grassland nesting birds in the Northern Great Plains of eastern Montana have declined dramatically. Observations from the new routes will augment the existing survey database and provide additional information to land managers and researchers to inform bird conservation.
Our goal in the PPJV is to continue working together in partnership during both wet and dry years so the “table” is always set for when sufficient snow and rain falls on the prairies. In this issue of the e-news, we present some of the highlights from the PPJV for the last year by reporting on a number of state-specific accomplishments – accomplishments that help keep the “table” set.
The Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan 2010 (MPCP) provides strategic direction for prairie upland and wetland habitat work. A completed plan is an accomplishment on its own, but without funding for implementation, often the actions in such plans are not completed. Fortunately, with the 2008 constitutional amendment increasing the Minnesota state sales tax by 3/8 of 1%, a strong and steady stream of funding was available to implement this plan.
South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks works cooperatively with farmers and ranchers to better manage wetland and grassland habitats. In 2014 GFP private lands biologists completed 75 projects with private landowner cooperators to enhance or restore 9,870 acres of upland habitat and 18 acres of wetland habitat within the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture.
Conservation partners in the Prairie Pothole Region of Montana, also referred to as the “Hi-Line”, have been delivering conservation for almost 30 years. Over the last 19 years, five NAWCA grants have conserved over 107,000 acres of grassland and wetland habitat. The most recent NAWCA grant will conserve more than 7,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat.
Populations of several species of breeding shorebirds in the PPR appear to be experiencing long-term declines. Marbled godwit, long-billed curlew, willet, Wilson’s phalarope, and American avocet are priority species, and Montana is an important state for them. To gain a better understanding of their vital rates, PPJV partners adopted a long-term adaptive conservation process that includes the Montana breeding shorebird project.
Conservation partners have come together to work on a large landscape-level project in the heart of the Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. The Glaciated Wetland and Prairies project area is a very unique landscape containing some of the most numerous, productive and diverse wetland communities in the world. These wetlands are being threatened by surface and pattern tile drainage by agriculture, along with the conversion of native prairies to cropland.
As we wrap up another year, you can look back on 2014 and identify a number of things for which you are thankful. As Casey Stemler looks at 2014, through the lens of the PPJV Coordinator, he is thankful for our many committed partners who ARE the PPJV and for the many supporters of prairie conservation.
SDGFP recognizes that the majority of wildlife habitat is held by private landowners, making successful partnerships with producers critical. In recent years one of its most successful conservation efforts has been the James River Watershed Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.
In 2013, the Minnesota Legislature passed legislation (H.F 976) that included directives requiring the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to establish a pollinator habitat program.
The backbone of each migratory bird joint venture is its implementation plan. The plan guides the actions and investments taken by the joint venture. The time is now right for the PPJV to move forward with revising and updating the 2005 PPJV Implementation Plan.
The fact sheet introduces the region, the joint venture, its solid science, its commitment to prairie conservation, the involvement of landowners, and the conservation benefits of the joint venture's work. These fact sheets are designed to be a resources for PPJV staff, Management Board, Technical Committee, and partners.
As we embark on a new year, the attention focused on the prairies in 2013 will offer grand opportunities in 2014. Through your continued support and tireless dedication, the PPJV will make a positive and lasting difference!
With a tagline of “The Habitat Organization” Pheasants Forever works with landowners and partners across the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture to protect critical grassland and wetland habitats.
The Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp is a functional Federal license for waterfowl hunters, but it is a lot more than that. The Stamp is responsible for having collected about $900 million since its creation.
Recent widespread alteration of natural habitat (i.e., grasslands, forests, wetlands) due to human land-use modification magnifies the need to delineate and conserve important habitats to maintain wildlife populations.
You are receiving this e-newsletter as someone who may be interested in the prairies, migratory birds, other prairie dependent wildlife, the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture, or landscape science and conservation. As you read our first edition of e-news, we hope...
Conservation organizations and agencies from across the country have committed to helping balance the needs of wildlife and people with the rapid conversion of wetlands and grasslands in the Prairie Pothole Region. Learn about the priority action steps developed...
Partners within the PPJV are developing an integrated system to prioritize landscape-scale habitats that have the highest biological value for priority bird species...