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Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

New online tool shows scope of grassland losses, highlighting need to conserve America’s prairies

Many wildlife species rely on grassland habitat. In July 2022, America’s leading conservation groups touted the introduction of the Grasslands Act by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, of Oregon, and co-sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, and Michael Bennet, of Colorado. (Photo by Bill Key)

Washington, D.C. — On April 11, a coalition of conservation organizations announced the launch of MapforGrasslands.Org to illustrate of the need for the North American Grasslands Conservation Act.

The first-of-its-kind website documents the loss of grasslands in North America, the subsequent impact on iconic wildlife species, and the need for grasslands-specific legislation – the North American Grasslands Conservation Act – to address upland habitat loss.

The new website demonstrates the significant loss of America’s prairies, savannas, glades, and sagebrush over a 30-year period (1992-present). Fifteen individual species are also highlighted within the project, showcasing population declines in some of America’s iconic wildlife, including the northern bobwhite quail, monarch butterfly, and bobolink.

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Produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in collaboration with the coalition, the project is a tool for legislators, hunters, and conservationists to better understand the habitat and species loss in their own backyards while empowering individuals to act.

“Grasslands across the U.S., and the species that call them home, are suffering dramatic losses. To deliver the message of grasslands in trouble and inspire action, we saw the need to show in one place all these losses, using the most authoritative evidence available,” said Wenfei Tong, a science editor at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “The value of this tool is that it summarizes published data to show the link between large-scale biodiversity declines and the loss of our native grasslands.”

“The Map for Grasslands tool really demonstrates the magnitude of grasslands habitat loss across the country and how those lost ecosystems have had devastating impacts on the birds, insects, mammals, and even the fish species living there,” said Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever president and CEO Marilyn Vetter. “It’s a great example of how science can help make the case for critically important Grasslands Act legislation.”

“It’s hard to imagine the massive loss of grasslands across our enormous prairie ecosystems, but with Map for Grasslands, now we can see it,” said Ted Koch, executive director of the North American Grouse Partnership. “Over two centuries, we went from unending ‘seas of grass’ with teeming wildlife like prairie grouse, to postage-stamp grasslands and increasingly endangered species. Americans have saved other endangered ecosystems before. Now it’s time to save prairies with the North American Grasslands Conservation Act.”

“Grasslands are North America’s most imperiled ecosystem. This mapping tool affirms that we need to take concerted, collaborative steps to conserve and restore this landscape, which is essential for wildlife, water, and our way of life throughout the country,” said Aviva Glaser, senior director of agriculture policy at the National Wildlife Federation. “We need our leaders to rally around solutions like the North American Grasslands Conservation Act to ensure this great American landscape endures for future generations.”

“All wildlife rely on healthy habitat to thrive – from grasslands to forests – and arming landowners with the resources to conserve and manage habitat is vital for wildlife,” said Ben Jones, president and CEO of the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society.

“Millions of acres of grassland and sagebrush habitat are rapidly disappearing across the North American landscape, a loss of critical habitat impacting a broad assemblage of species including pronghorn and bobwhite quail,” said Patrick Berry, president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “When coupled with meaningful policies like the North American Grasslands Conservation Act, innovative resources like the Map for Grasslands will help inform identification of strategic projects to conserve these shrinking landscapes.”

The Grasslands Act is modeled upon the successful North American Wetlands Conservation Act to empower America’s landowners with voluntary conservation tools to help conserve these grasslands, prairies, savannas, and sage lands. The program would live within the U.S. Department of the Interior and complement farm bill programs within the USDA. As with NAWCA, the coalition is seeking the Grasslands Act to be authorized at $60 million annually, with an increase of $7.5 million each year.

In July 2022, America’s leading conservation groups touted the introduction of the Grasslands Act by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, of Oregon, and co-sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, and Michael Bennet, of Colorado. Coalition partners currently are working with elected officials on revised bill language in hopes of reintroduction.

To learn more about the North American Grasslands Conservation Act or to take action on behalf of this historic legislation, visit www.ActforGrasslands.Org

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