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Sustaining Bird Habitats & Rural Communities

Working with Ranchers to Bend the Grassland Bird Curve

More than a decade ago, the National Audubon Society recognized that any successful grassland bird conservation approach needed to work collaboratively with the landowners and land managers who are the stewards of the vast majority of America’s grassland landscapes—the essential places for grassland birds.

The Audubon Conservation Ranching program was conceived as a market-connected conservation approach that would use a bird-friendly land certification as a driver to incentivize grassland habitat conservation. With more than 110 certified ranches covering nearly 3 million acres across 14 states, including the Northern Great Plains states, the program is already making a widespread impact, one Audubon believes can be scaled to 10 million acres and beyond.

Here’s a quick overview of how Audubon Conservation Ranching works:

  • Ranchers adopt a Habitat Management Plan (HMP) that addresses site-specific habitat goals and management actions to benefit target grassland bird species.
  • Once requirements in the HMP, as well as those for animal health & welfare and environmental sustainability, are met and audited by a third party, Audubon issues its bird-friendly land certification.
  • With the land certification, the Audubon Certified bird-friendly seal can be used on packaging and in the promotion of beef or bison products from certified ranches, signifying their origin as lands managed for birds and biodiversity.
  • Consumers become conservationists when they choose products displaying the Audubon Certified bird-friendly seal, purchasing products from lands where grazing and management practices ensure diverse bird habitat and forage, healthy soils, abundant pollinators, and cleaner waters.

In the 2023 Audubon Certified Bird-Friendly Impact Report, you can read more about the program’s success in partnering with ranchers—including those in the Northern Great Plains—to improve grassland bird habitat, efforts ramping up to understand the soil and climate impacts of bird-friendly land management, and how the program is building consumer awareness of the Audubon Certified bird-friendly seal.

“We have a window of opportunity to change the trajectory of grassland bird populations,” said Chris Wilson, Program Director for Audubon Conservation Ranching. “With Audubon’s new strategic plan in hand—our Flight Plan—Audubon Conservation Ranching is aligning behind a common goal: To bend the bird curve, which means halting, and ultimately reversing, the steep decline of grassland birds.”

Click here for a map of where you can purchase Audubon-certified, bird-friendly beef and bison.