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World Wildlife Fund's Northern Great Plains Restoration Project Recognized in 2009 Global Vision Awards

Travel + Leisure’s Annual Award Honors Unique Wildlife Tourism Project That Connects Northern Great Plains Conservationists to Namibia

WASHINGTON DC, November 4, 2009 – A unique conservation project World Wildlife Fund (WWF) started two years ago in partnership with the Nebraska-based Grassland Foundation has won Travel + Leisure’s 2009 Global Vision Award for Wildlife Tourism.

The award, from one of the nation’s most prestigious travel magazines, honors "latest and best efforts at cultural preservation, environmental conservation, and community-building through tourism."  WWF and its partner, the Grassland Foundation, received the award for their work linking ranchers and conservationists from the Northern Great Plains to WWF projects in Namibia in order to learn valuable conservation lessons from the African nation’s wildlife and land management practices to implement in their communities.

The Northern Great Plains, the great American prairie which begins in southwest Canada and sweeps over parts of Montana, the Dakotas, Colorado and Nebraska, is a remarkable, yet primarily unprotected landscape.  Currently less than 2 percent of the region’s 180 million acres in reserves are managed for wildlife conservation. The Northern Great Plains is home to a diverse array of native species, including the American bison, the prairie dog and the black-footed ferret— one of the most endangered mammals in North America. WWF is leading a major conservation effort to restore and conserve this remarkable landscape and the wildlife that call it home.

Although the Northern Great Plains and Namibia are worlds apart they share conservation challenges and goals for their future.  WWF's vision for the Northern Great Plains is to create a healthy and well-managed landscape that conserves all native species through a combination of conservation areas and ecologically sustainable agriculture. This vision meshes well with WWF’s conservation work in Namibia – to partner with local communities to empower them to manage their natural resources and ensure a future that includes healthy wildlife populations and sustainable economic growth. The T + L award is an affirmation of the importance of WWF’s work in both the Northern Great Plains and Namibia. 

“We are honored to receive this prestigious award for wildlife tourism in the vast, open grasslands of the Northern Great Plains, one of North America’s undiscovered treasures,” said WWF’s Northern Great Plains Managing Director Martha Kauffman.  “Here you can ride a horse across the open prairie or float the path of Lewis and Clark and see much of what they once saw.  WWF and its partners are working to conserve and restore the wildlife that this area was once known for.  Namibia provides a great example of an economy that has capitalized on their wildlife and vast open space, and we’re looking at how that can translate to the Northern Great Plains.”

In commenting on the Northern Great Plains Restoration Project, Dr. Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winning economist at Columbia University, and a 2009 Travel + Leisure Global Vision Awards judge, said "The Northern Great Plains project is an impressive example of America learning from best practices abroad."

 “Though it may seem that our continent's largest grassland, the Northern Great Plains, has little in common with the Namibian desert, the areas are, in fact, intrinsically linked,” notes the Travel + Leisure article describing the project. “In 2007, when the Nebraska-based Grassland Foundation was searching for a conservation model for the largely unprotected area in the States, it looked to Namibia's successes in harnessing ecotourism for wildlife preservation.”

The full article appears in the November issue of Travel + Leisure and online at http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/2009-global-vision-awards/2/?comments_page=1#.