State of the Prairies

Photo credit: Jim Williams

State of the Prairies

Conservation practitioners in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) have practiced landscape level planning and conservation for over 20 years. PPJV partners assessed the attainability of landscape level conservation goals in the U.S. PPR. Their assessment, published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin in 2013, comprehensively summarized information on status, trends, and potential future conditions of grasslands and wetlands, land stressors, and conservation protection.

Results show time is a critical element in conservation planning, yet it is often ignored. Once habitat trends over time, such as increasing conversion of wetlands to agriculture, are incorporated, it becomes apparent that the PPJV is unlikely to reach its stated conservation goals. The PPJV may need to use conservation triage in planning unless certain conditions occur, including: 1) additional funding resources are obtained for land conservation efforts, 2) private landowners remain interested in conservation programs, and 3) wetland and grassland loss rates are decreased via public policy, particularly agriculture programs. Alternatively, species population and habitat conservation goals identified in the 2005 PPJV Implementation Plan will have to be reduced to be realistic.

Even though this approach may be difficult to accept, it may prove the most strategic. If we fall short on habitat protection because loss rates exceed conservation rates, we certainly want the opportunity to choose which landscapes we invest in.