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.
The Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) is ground zero for much of the ongoing grassland conversion and avian population losses despite strong conservation efforts. A recent recognition of land managers in North Dakota and South Dakota is a case in point. The Wildlife Society awarded 28 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service project leaders and refuge managers with the Executive Group Achievement Award in October. They were acknowledged for their dedicated work in perpetually protecting 3.1 million acres of privately owned wetlands and grasslands essential for upland nesting ducks and other grassland-dependent birds.
Notwithstanding the dedicated conservation work, the PPR continues to experience grassland loss rates of approximately 2% annually. This 2-sided example highlights the need for partners to accelerate grassland and small wetland conservation work, and we cannot accomplish that without additional resources.
As we enter 2021, the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture will continue to focus our on-the-ground conservation work where it will have the greatest impact on the people and wildlife in the PPR. Our partners will advocate for the notion of ‘keeping the table set’ for avian populations by keeping critical wetland and grassland habitats intact and restoring those that have been lost or degraded. We will explore expanded partnership opportunities, accelerate integrated bird conservation with additional resources, and amplify communication efforts to bring increased attention to the crisis on the prairies and valuable conservation work our partners are championing.