Weather Forecast


‘Conservation in the Prairies’ campaign aims to boost awareness of threats to the Prairie Pothole Region

A coalition of conservation organizations has launched a coordinated, partner-driven campaign to bring public attention to the dramatic conversion of grasslands and wetlands to cropland in the Prairie Pothole Region, widely known as North America’s “duck factory.”

“More than 50 percent of North American migratory waterfowl depend upon the mix of wetlands and grasslands found in the Prairie Pothole Region,” said Noreen Walsh, regional director for the Mountain-Prairie Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a partner in Prairie’s Conservation Campaign. “This area is called America’s ‘duck factory’ because it is the most productive area for nesting waterfowl on the continent, perhaps the world.

“These prairies and all the wildlife that they support are currently stressed by many factors acting together to threaten our natural heritage. By joining together as stewards, we can shed light on this problem and find solutions.”

Joining the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the campaign are Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, the World Wildlife Fund, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, Pheasants Forever and the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust.

Among other goals, the campaign will seek to create grass-roots awareness in the region about landowner conservation programs and tools available to help prevent the loss of grassland. While this strategy will primarily focus on stakeholder cooperation in local communities, partner organizations invite the public to follow and participate in the conversation online using the #ConserveThePrairies hashtag.

John Devney, senior vice president of Delta Waterfowl in Bismarck, said the campaign is more about communication and outreach than about trying to effect policy changes related to the loss of prairie habitat.

“I think the primary impetus is to reach a broader audience with the consistent messaging about how important the prairies are and the pressures we’ve seen on the prairie landscape the last number of years,” Devney said in an interview.

He said the Fish and Wildlife Service has done a good job of assembling information about the importance of the prairie ecosystem to “amplify the dialogue” beyond the hunters who form the core of groups such as Delta, DU and Pheasants Forever.

“If there’s one constituency that’s probably better informed than most, it’s duck hunters about the prairies, but we have a long ways to go, and we need to consistently tell those stories,” Devney said. “The Fish and Wildlife Service is going to bring better reach into the non-core constituencies, talking about what (prairies and wetlands) mean for water quality, flood mitigation … we spend a lot of time on how it impacts the fall duck flight, but they may be able to reach” a broader audience.

According to Fish and Wildlife, campaign partners are working together to find conservation solutions, additional resources and win-win solutions for landowners. In order to do this, one of the campaign’s primary goals is to increase opportunities for voluntary incentive-based tools to keep livestock producers profitable.

That will ensure the Prairie Pothole Region has healthy fish and wildlife populations, healthy soil and water resources, and an assurance that ranch families will always be an integral and profitable component of the region’s economy, Fish and Wildlife said in a news release.

“This was sort of the initial foray, but I think you’re going to see a lot more in the months to come,” Devney said.

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Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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