North Dakota Game and Fish running Meadowlark Initiative to sustain native grasslands

Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 7:03 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - North Dakota Game and Fish is aiming to help the decline of prairies statewide through the Meadowlark Initiative.

One of the efforts of the Meadowlark Initiative is planting native grassland species throughout the state.

“Well, it’s really a coalition of a lot of partners, AG, energy, and conservation all coming together to really do a better job and take care of our native grassland,” said Greg Link, chief chair of the conservation communications division.

Game and Fish has data that says the number of U.S. cattle ranches is declining by 1% per year, and the loss of traditional ranching heritage is at risk.

“And we do that by taking care of those ranchers. We know the rancher in public is really out there and making a living on it. So, if we take care of them, they’re going to take care of our grasslands. But we also have to work with energy development and other development projects trying to reduce the impact to the native grassland and then obviously make our public really aware of the importance of those grasslands and what they bring to our communities,” said Link.

The initiative is backed by many different partners around the state and started in the spring of 2020. North Dakota Game and Fish received a grant from the USDA to start it but are going to keep the initiative going.

“We pull the resources, the technical and financial resources from all those different groups. And create a pathway that makes it easier for landowners and producers to kind of navigate that and get the assistance that they need,” said Heather Husband, coordinator of the Meadowlark Initiative.

Many species that rely on the grasslands, pollinators, and grassland birds have had significant losses.

“We’re down under 25% of our remaining native prairie, and like I said, a lot of that isn’t even that good of shape,” said Link.

To help conserve the native prairie, Game and Fish has different programs depending on what the conservation partners, landowners, and producers want. Anyone interested can go to the North Dakota Game and Fish website.

Game and Fish reports 60% of nearly five million wetland acres in North Dakota have been lost or converted.