When one thinks of the Northern Great Plains, it often conjures images of vast horizons and frolicking antelope, yet it is the people that define the region. Ranchers, farmers, indigenous people, and other community members embody the resilience of this landscape, and many are dedicated to sustaining rangelands for cultural significance, current livelihoods, or future legacies. Despite this, individual efforts alone are not keeping pace with the magnitude of grassland loss and ecosystem degradation. Conservation professionals are rallying to support local champions with a shared vision of building resilient landscapes that can slow the tide of habitat loss. The Northern Great Plains Joint Venture is providing the forum for innovative thinking and decisive action to cooperatively address some of the more challenging conservation problems in ways that work locally and make a difference at larger scales. By making connections, providing capacity and resources, and convening people, the NGPJV is collectively catalyzing effective conservation in the Northern Great Plains.
To expand community impact, the NGPJV is helping to bring producers, land managers, and conservation professionals together to learn from each other. Over the last two years, the NGPJV supported five wet meadow restoration workshops that reached 135 people. Wet meadow restoration is an emerging technique popular with producers and land managers because of its low cost and high probability of positively influencing rangelands. The technique uses locally sourced materials to slow water runoff and erosion, keeping water on the landscape and, in turn, nourishing the surrounding vegetation, recharging the groundwater, and leading to more vibrant grasslands. Like a community barn-raising event, wet meadow restoration workshops create a space where partners work together to help the land and their fellow producers; the shared experiences lead to lasting relationships and trust.
The NGPJV is using our extensive collaborative to develop and maintain a conservation delivery network of private lands biologists and managers. We support this network by connecting professionals around shared work, facilitating state-based training and learning forums, and convening discussions for cross-partner projects and funding proposals.
It is also important to serve the people working locally by continuing to enhance and share scientific knowledge and planning tools. The NGPJV engages a technical committee of regional experts who share information, identify priority technical needs, and help fill information gaps. At the 2023 Technical Committee meeting in Billings, Montana, the group identified high impact information needs spanning socioeconomics and marketing, science integration, communications, conservation policy, and spatial planning tools.
The power of the NGPJV partnership is in connecting people and place, aligning around shared values, and collectively working to address conservation challenges in places with strong community will and high resource value. The NGPJV is continuing to broaden the network, welcoming leaders from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Buffalo Nations Grasslands Alliance to the NGPJV Management Board in summer 2023. These new partners will help connect NGPJV work with local resource needs in Wyoming and on tribal lands. By empowering place-based conservation, the NGPJV coalition is helping to ensure that the people and the resources of the region will be sustained now and into the future.
As a means of catalyzing work to address priority science needs, the NGPJV offers small science grants and is often one of several entities funding these projects. Current NGPJV-supported projects include:
- Spatial Prioritization of Grasslands Management for Bird Conservation – led by Bird Conservancy of the Rockies
- Social Science in Support of Grasslands Conservation in the Northern Great Plains – led by University of Wyoming
- Informing Multi-scale Strategic Habitat Conservation for Priority Grassland Birds in the Northern Great Plains – led by University of Montana
- Monitoring Songbird Response to Grassland and Wet Meadow Restoration – led by Bird Conservancy of the Rockies