NGPJV logo
Sustaining Bird Habitats & Rural Communities

Working Across Fences: Collaborations in Science & Capacity

The Northern Great Plains Joint Venture has been working across fences and Joint Venture (JV) boundaries to support grassland conservation that bridges gaps between land ownership and cultures and moves the needle on habitat conservation and grassland bird population targets. The NGPJV and Prairie Pothole Joint Venture (PPJV) science integration specialists continue to collaborate across the shared states of South Dakota and Montana. Science integration specialists connect ecology, scientific models, on-the-ground projects, and people and work to provide partners with locally relevant information and tools. The PPJV science integration specialist worked with southeastern Montana NRCS field offices to develop Targeted Implementation Plans for many NGPJV counties, which focus conservation efforts on priority resource concerns and areas. These plans promote sustainable grazing practices and emphasize the secondary benefits to grassland birds and other wildlife, while supporting working lands.

In November, the NGPJV science integration specialist coordinated a first-of-its-kind private lands biologist forum for South Dakota’s private lands-focused biologists, specialists, and field staff. Over three days, 110 private lands practitioners from 28 organizations met in person to network and address the challenges and opportunities that exist within South Dakota’s landscapes. Attendees connected with new and familiar partners, shared information and experiences, and heard from organization leadership, landowners, local consultants, and each other. Core values of trust, flexibility, and partnership and collaboration were continually emphasized by attendees and speakers alike. The forum provided a needed opportunity for private lands-focused discussion and networking, and attendees are excited to carry the forum’s momentum forward into future events and collaborative action across the state.

Post-event Survey
96% connected with new partners in their region100% connected with new partners in the stateInterested in attending a statewide private lands-focused event at least every other yearInterested in learning more about partner programs, outreach, and economics

This collaboration extends across the broader region, as the science integration and science to implementation staff from the Northern Great Plains, Prairie Pothole, and Intermountain West JVs began to meet virtually to discuss regional science transfer efforts. The bimonthly meetings provide space for staff to share scientific tools and materials, offer technical support, and identify opportunities for additional cross-JV collaboration. In 2023, staff shared strategies on how to engage with non-traditional partners, how to effectively report around North American Waterfowl Management Plan priorities, and how to communicate the benefits of NRCS Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Activities.

In August, the NPGJV was awarded $547,844 through a five-year Cooperative Agreement by the Montana NRCS to hire a second science integration specialist to serve southeastern Montana. This new position will work closely with the NGPJV and PPJV science integration specialists to increase partner access to conservation science, data, and tools. The new specialist will also assist local Montana NRCS offices with the development of Targeted Implementation Plans.

In collaboration with local partners, the NGPJV supports partner biologist positions throughout the Northern Great Plains geography. These shared positions provide technical support to local NRCS field offices and landowners. Each of the collaborative partner positions supported by the NGPJV help fill capacity gaps and provide technical assistance to target meaningful conservation of grasslands.

By investing in place-based science transfer, local partnerships, and collaborative capacity, the NGPJV is working toward its ecological goals as well as supporting the rural communities in which many conservation practitioners serve. The shared positions throughout the NGPJV are improving habitat, building trust, and broadcasting the importance of grasslands to new audiences. Through cross-JV work, targeted priority resource concerns are being funded and improved, partners are convened and relationships are prioritized, and conservation action is reaching beyond traditional boundaries.

Many partners work together to support field capacity in the region. Positions that utilize NGPJV assistance include:

  • Pheasants Forever Coordinating Wildlife Biologist, Winnett MT – Implementing habitat projects to benefit grassland birds, big game, and other wildlife.
  • Pheasants Forever Coordinating Wildlife Biologist, Big Horn WY – Building trust and enhancing the conservation network through over 50 landowner contacts and well-attended in-person workshops.
  • South Dakota Grasslands Initiative Director – Promoting South Dakota’s grasslands through public awareness and partnership coordination.
  • American Bird Conservancy Private Lands Biologist, Timber Lake SD – Delivering conservation programs to agricultural producers in central South Dakota, including producers living on the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Reservations.