Northern Great Plains

Geographical location:

North America > North America > Canada

North America > North America > USA / United States of America

Summary

This project represents the Canadian component of a cross-border effort with WWF United States. The Northern Great Plains ecoregion is one of WWF’s global 200 ecoregions, a high priority for conservation as a result of the threatened species and habitats found here.

The project addresses the full ecoregion in terms of conservation vision, but in terms of dedicated field work, is currently limited to the northern third or so of the region, straddling the Canada-United States frontier where Alberta, Saskatchewan and Montana converge. The project represents the major new initiative launched for WWF Canada's 2005 Goal on Shared Species and Ecosystems.

In spite of many prairie conservation efforts, no one agency has integrated species and systems work on both sides of the border, nor set its sights on the long-term vision and targets that WWF has. As sufficient prairie is restored, protected, buffered and connected, WWF will also support re-introduction and recovery of species diminished or lost from the region, including plains bison, swift fox, black-footed ferrets and burrowing owls. Since the project covers the Upper Missouri watershed, it could be developed to also serve the WWF network's freshwater goals, furthering river-basin (riparian) conservation needs.

Background

Once an endless carpet of grasslands spanning the heart of the continent, the prairies of North America are today a mere shadow of their former self. Tens of millions of bison grazed the Great Plains, a thundering natural disturbance that, along with fire and drought, maintained the grasslands largely free of trees. But massive market hunting of bison, and extensive plowing of the fertile soils, have threatened more prairie wildlife species than in any other natural region of Canada. Worldwide, less than 1% of grasslands are secured in protected areas, and given the degradation, considerable restoration will be required to reverse the decline and eventually conserve the biological diversity of North America's prairie realm. Cooperating with WWF United States, the Nature Conservancies of Canada and the United States, and other key partners, WWF Canada will help restore and protect one of the last and largest cross-border prairie areas, boasting considerable remnants of intact prairie.

Objectives

Restore the Northern Great Plains grassland ecosystem through the securement of intact grasslands, the restoration of keystone species and ecological processes, and the building of sustainable human communities on which this grassland depends for long-lasting conservation.

Solution

WWF has the vision to take a wider, bi-national approach, and the experience to pull together the partnerships required. Together with WWF United States, we have already assembled a suite of government and non-government partners who have welcomed WWF’s interest and skill in catalyzing a coordinated, cross-border effort. We will focus effort on the transboundary area of this ecoregion, where there still exist outstanding, but time-limited opportunities to conserve large intact landscapes and restore vital links and missing ecological elements. We will do so by working with the necessary suite of partners and rural communities to ensure on the ground conservation results are sustained, along with the communities that steward them.

Achievement

1. Conservation action plans developed with government and non-governmental organization (NGO) stakeholder input for 5 cross-border priority areas.

2. United States expertise on black-footed ferret injected into Canadian recovery and reintroduction strategy for Saskatchewan, Canada.

3. Reconnaissance of Suffield National Wildife Area in Alberta, Canada, in advance of proposal to double petroleum extraction.

4. Plains bison reintroduced into Grasslands National Park by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

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