North America’s grasslands are some of the most threatened habitats on the planet. WWF’s 2021 Plowprint Report found that from 2018-2019 alone an estimated 2.6 million acres of grassland across the US and Canadian Great Plains were plowed-up, primarily to make way for row crop agriculture. To put this into context, an area greater than Yellowstone National Park was destroyed in a single year.
Our grasslands provide critical wildlife habitat, support rural economies, filter water, and keep carbon in the soil, serving as a buffer against climate change. They have been the home of Native American nations since time immemorial and have supported ranching families for the past several generations. Unfortunately, more than 70 percent of America’s tallgrass, mixed-grass, and shortgrass prairies have been lost, which has led to the precipitous decline of species including grassland birds and pollinators.
To protect and restore iconic grassland landscapes, World Wildlife Fund and more than a dozen of North America’s leading conservation groups are touting the introduction of critical new legislation—The North American Grasslands Conservation Act—which has been introduced by US Senator Ron Wyden (Oregon), with support from Senators Michael Bennet ( Colorado) and Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota). If passed, the bill would become one of the most significant steps for grassland conservation in a generation. Senator Wyden and partners continue to seek co-sponsors.
“Grasslands matter because they provide irreplaceable habitat for species like the plains bison. They matter because they lock carbon in the ground. And they matter as a home for the Native nations and ranchers whose cultures and livelihoods are tied to the land,” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund. “Pressure to convert grasslands for agriculture or other uses contributed to the loss of some 2.6 million acres across the US and Canadian portions of the Great Plains from 2018-2019 alone.