By Cara Greger
While taking a walk at the Belfield “Dam” Park (some locals told me they want to change the name, but my kids and I kind of like it), my ten-year-old Chocolate Labrador Retriever Muffin and I were looking at last year’s prairie skeletons. 2022 must have been a good moisture year for this little remnant of prairie because I see skeletons of purple coneflower, wild licorice, thimbleweed, goldenrods, little bluestem, big bluestem, and others. Seeing the evidence of last year’s growth makes me think of how my first summer in western North Dakota will be. What plethora of prairie plants and colors will I see?
The prairie has been my home for most of my life. I actually get a little claustrophobic in dense woodlands or interstates lined with trees where you never see the horizon. Western North Dakota prairie is new to me, so I am excited to see the subtle differences between eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota to here. Where my family and I came from in Minnesota, we had prickly pear and ball cactus which was the farthest East location for ball cactus because of the unique habitat of granite rock outcrops. My husband Dan and I are excited to go hiking and camping out in the Badlands off the beaten path. So many adventures await us this first western North Dakota summer.
I am thankful for North Dakota’s protection of its outdoor heritage and hope to be an advocate for it with my new position as the Western North Dakota Conservation Coordinator for the North Dakota Wildlife Federation. Among the programs that are part of that preservation process is the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Meadowlark Initiative which helps ranchers, producers, landowners, and farmers implement conservation practices on their land. It is a one stop shop for all programs. Interested landowners and operators can visit the website for more information and let their neighbors know about these opportunities. https://gf.nd.gov/meadowlark-initiative/programs
The other good news for native prairie work is the introduction of North American Grasslands Conservation Act (NAGCA) in the U.S. Senate by Ron Wyden of Oregon and the Central Grasslands Roadmap. Information on each can be found at: https://actforgrasslands.org/ www.grasslandsroadmap.org
Highlights of the North American Grasslands Conservation Act of 2022 include:
- Establishing a North American Grassland Conservation Strategy for the protection, restoration, and management of grassland ecosystems across North America.
- Creating a flexible Grassland Conservation Grant Program for voluntary, incentive-based conservation of grasslands, including projects to restore degraded grasslands, increase carbon sequestration, improve grassland and rangeland health, mitigate the threats of wildfire and drought, improve biodiversity, and support habitat connectivity, and restore watersheds.
- Building National and Regional Grassland Conservation Councils to recommend and approve grassland conservation projects to be funded under the grant program.
- Starting research initiatives on native seed crop systems and regenerative grazing practices.
Both NAGCA and the roadmap work on a national and international level to make grasslands a priority. Growing appreciation for the subtle prairie landscape can be an uphill but these tools are making it happen.
Cara Greger is NDWF’s new Western ND Conservation Coordinator and a Dakota Edge Outdoors contributing writer. She will be responsible for working with hunters and landowners to protect grasslands and enhance wildlife habitat. She can be reached at email@example.com
Featured Photo: Prairie Preservation. Protecting and enhancing native prairie and restoring what once was will be aided with the development of new state and federal programs focused on the importance of grasslands in North Dakota and beyond. Simonson Photo.