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A Migratory Bird Joint Venture Network Approach to Grassland Conservation

The original Migratory Bird Joint Ventures (JVs), including the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture, were established to achieve the goals and objectives of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Today there are 22 habitat-based JVs and three species-based JVs, each addressing the bird habitat conservation issues found within their geographic area or working to further the scientific understanding needed to effectively manage populations of specific bird species. Within the North American Great Plains, seven habitat-based JVs focus on priority bird conservation in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Compelled by alarming grassland loss rates in the Great Plains, these seven JVs, 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 prioritizing habitat conservation efforts across this large geographic expanse. By working as a network of JVs, project partners aim to bring the conservation success they have achieved in their respective regional geographies to the larger landscape.

The grassland assessment project consists of two primary phases - in the first phase scientists will analyze existing spatial data to identify potentially undisturbed grasslands across the study area and will create a spatial “layer.” During the second phase, JVs will use the undisturbed grassland layer together with species-habitat models to develop a strategy to prioritize grasslands for protection and restoration. Each JV will use its respective grassland conservation programs to identify habitat to conserve for their priority grassland bird species. By partnering with USDA Farm Services Agency, the JV network plans to leverage national programs such as Conservation Reserve Program to help reach the collective protection and restoration targets.

ConocoPhillips has been a primary project supporter providing conservation funding and reviewing approaches to expand the grassland conservation capacity of the collective JVs. To that end, project participants will convene in Denver, Colorado this month to review the first phase of the project and begin the second phase of targeting grasslands for protection and restoration to develop a Great Plains grassland conservation strategy. Project partners plan to have the undisturbed grassland mapping completed by summer of 2019 and the conservation strategy finished soon afterward.

For more information contact Sean Fields, PPJV Science Coordinator ()