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Sustaining Bird Habitats & Rural Communities
Anthony Hauck

Prairie to Plate Philosophy Drives Bird-Friendly Management at North Dakota’s Paul Ranch

More than 60 miles southwest of Bismarck, the Paul Ranch spreads across more than 6,700 acres of high-quality, mixed-grass prairie. One of the initial ranches enrolled in the National Audubon Society’s Conservation Ranching program, the ranch, operated by Daniel and Tresa Paul and their children David and Denver Paul, is celebrating five years as an Audubon Certified bird-friendly habitat.

Brothers David and Denver are the sixth generation to hold the ranch’s reigns, both versed in the rotational grazing ways that make their family’s native prairie so desirable for grassland birds. They are relaunching Wild Prairie Beef, a direct-to-consumer meat business, to bring their own story of stewardship to consumers who are looking to support conservation.

“Protecting prairie birds is a passion for our family,” David Paul said, “With our regenerative grazing approach, birds and beef are directly connected. Our cattle are habitat helpers, moved about our prairie in a manner similar to how native bison once roamed.”

The result, says Charlene Kohler Prodzinski, a Range Ecologist for Audubon Great Plains, makes the Paul Ranch ideally suited to numerous grassland birds species. “Rotational grazing mimics nature’s way of creating grassland bird habitat, where by strategically grazing cattle, we create different layers of vegetation for bird species and their varying needs.” At the Paul Ranch, this includes multilayers for Grasshopper Sparrows, Long-billed Curlews, Upland Sandpipers, and Western Meadowlarks. Notably, the Paul Ranch boasts the highest number of Chestnut-collared Longspurs recorded across any Audubon Certified bird-friendly ranch habitat.

The Paul Ranch earned the Audubon bird-friendly certification through the Audubon Conservation Ranching program, continually meeting all program requirements centered on habitat management, environmental sustainability, and animal welfare. The Audubon Certified bird-friendly seal recognizes lands managed for birds and biodiversity.

With Wild Prairie Beef, the Pauls’ strategy is simple: Get to know ‘em. “We want customers to be truly connected to conservation on our ranch, to us, our cattle and the meals on their plates.”