The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced $2.81 million in grants to maintain or improve nearly 65,000 acres of interconnected, native grasslands in Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.
DENVER, (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) --The grants will generate $9.66 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of $12.47 million.
The 16 grants will bolster efforts to sustain, restore and enhance habitats that support populations of grassland species such as greater sage-grouse, mule deer, pronghorn and black-footed ferrets while also fostering sustainable livelihoods and preserving cultural identities in the Northern Great Plains.
The grants were awarded through the Northern Great Plains Program (NGP), a partnership between NFWF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, a private funding source and BNSF Railways.
“Healthy grasslands support a wide range of wildlife species, as well as ranches and other working lands,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “Many of these collaborative projects are led by local ranching communities, and NFWF is excited to support such voluntary efforts.”
A grant to the Bureau of Land Management – Miles City Field Office will help apply practices such as fence removal and modification to reduce obstacles in the migratory pathways of pronghorn and mule deer. Another grant to Prairie Wildlife Research will examine the use of sylvatic plague vaccine to conserve populations of the endangered black-footed ferret.
“The actions of these partners provide the framework to keep the northern Great Plains grasslands healthy and supporting natural and social resources for generations to come. This initiative helps improve the grasslands and surrounding communities, working across ownerships and interests,” said Jane Darnell, deputy regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service, Northern Region.
The Northern Great Plains Program also supports local projects where ranching communities and conservation organizations promote the common interest of intact grasslands.
Grasslands provide valuable forage for livestock and habitat for a host of species that rely on grazers to maintain a variety of vegetative conditions and structure on the landscape. A grant awarded to Ranchers Stewardship Alliance will help restore native grass and enhance management of working rangelands in Montana’s Milk River Grasslands.
“The USDA Forest Service National Grasslands are an important part of supporting rural economies and conservation efforts to keep these working lands providing key wildlife habitat, cultural heritage resources and clean water. We are proud to support and participate in this initiative,” Darnell said.
The Northern Great Plains Program was launched by NFWF in 2013. The program seeks to conserve, restore and improve 1 million grassland acres by 2026.
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