Even as Old Man Winter stubbornly holds his icy grip on the Northern Great Plains, the cheery chortle of the Western meadowlark heralds with enthusiastic exuberance and absolute certainty, the arrival of another prairie spring.
Greeting the return of this well-known, yellow-clad crooner to its fence post podiums across North Dakota’s landscape is a broad array of new native grassland conservation strategies. Little does this black-neckerchiefed bird know that in addition to being the official state bird, he has also become the poster child for the newly established collaborative grassland partnership, the North Dakota Meadowlark Initiative. The Initiative was put in play to help stem the loss of our feathered troubadour’s treasured native grasslands and the steady declines he and many of his prairie brethren are experiencing.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department, along with a coalition of committed ag, industry, and conservation partners, has combined energies and resources to:
- Assist and support our ranching community, our grassroot caretakers of this important prairie ecosystem.
- Revitalize, reconnect, reconstruct, and sustain native grasslands and the bountiful diversity they provide.
- Avoid, minimize, and offset industrial native grassland impacts.
- Promote awareness of societal benefits provided by native grasslands.
- Expand science and education associated with this essential resource.
The $17 million Initiative, made up of over $10 million partner dollars and $7.1 million USDA-NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program funding, was launched in November 2021, offering diverse financial and technical assistance to help ranchers/producers maintain and expand their livestock operations by: establishing new native perennial grass/forb plantings, providing transitional rental payments, developing grazing system infrastructure, and offering key mentoring to support regenerative grazing. The cooperative effort has already garnered interest from over 200 ranchers, producers, and landowners. The Meadowlark Initiative also strives to measure and monitor effects relative to four key desired outcomes: landowner acceptance and satisfaction, grassland bird response, pollinator species response, and effect on soil health and carbon storage.
Landowners, stakeholders, and partners interested in participating in the Meadowlark Initiative can obtain additional information at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website: https://gf.nd.gov/meadowlark-initiative