New project will help improve 1 million acres of grasslands to help fight the climate crisis

Northern Great Plains

A new project produced in collaboration with private landowners across the Northern Great Plains will help fight the climate crisis by improving the health of 1 million acres of grasslands, increasing underground carbon storage, filtering clean water, and providing habitat for wildlife.

WWF is joining forces with The Walmart Foundation, McDonald’s, and Cargill to invest more than $6 million in this initiative to make lasting improvements to America’s iconic grasslands.

The new program, known as the Ranch Systems and Viability Planning network, will provide ranchers across the Northern Great Plains—focused mainly on Montana, Nebraska, and South Dakota—with additional training and tools to help use even better grazing practices that improve the health of the land. This in turn will help provide habitat for wildlife and absorb carbon dioxide—a heat-trapping gas contributing to the climate crisis—from the atmosphere.

WWF will work with ranchers on private and tribal lands to provide training in one-on-one and group workshops, offer ongoing technical expertise, and provide cost-share and monitoring to work with ranchers as they design, document, and implement ranch plans. Ranchers will be able to adapt their plans to improve conservation and economic outcomes and learn from other project participants.

Ranchers are the heart of the Northern Great Plains

“Under their careful management, these grasslands will continue to provide habitat for wildlife, store carbon, filter clean water, produce nutritious food, and support communities for generations to come.”

Martha Kauffman
Managing Director, Northern Great Plains Program, WWF

Ranchers are vital stewards of the Northern Great Plains. They manage more than 70% of the remaining intact grasslands within this region. This project will support ranchers in planning and improving the resilience of their operations, both ecologically and economically.

“Under their careful management, these grasslands will continue to provide habitat for wildlife, store carbon, filter clean water, produce nutritious food, and support communities for generations to come,” said Martha Kauffman, managing director of WWF’s Northern Great Plains program.

The Northern Great Plains comprises approximately 25% of the total area of the Great Plains of North America and remains largely intact thanks, in part, to its harsh climate, which has made agricultural expansion relatively difficult until recent decades.

This unique and vital region supports 1,595 species of plants, which provide habitat for 300 species of birds, 95 species of mammals, 28 species of reptiles, and many important pollinators. And the Missouri and South Saskatchewan rivers, along with smaller prairie streams, riparian, and wetlands habitats, provide a home for 13 species of amphibians and 121 species of fish.

The remaining healthy ecosystems within the Northern Great Plains are maintained largely by hardworking ranching communities. Grasslands have evolved to be grazed, and cattle grazing, when managed well, can deliver many conservation benefits, including healthy grasslands, improved soil, and the preservation of key habitats.

Partnering for nature

This project is a continuation of several initiatives with Walmart, McDonald’s, and Cargill, all long-standing partners of WWF. Cargill and WWF partner on a range of issues including sustainable seafood sourcing, reducing food loss and waste, conserving North American grasslands, and implementing a responsible forest policy.

Our partnership with McDonald’s is focused on advancing sustainability in the company’s business operations and supply chain. Walmart Foundation is funding key WWF initiatives that support farmers and ranchers in critical food production areas of the US by addressing food waste at the farm level and preventing the conversion of our remaining intact grasslands.

Together alongside ranchers, we can advance practical solutions to safeguard America’s grasslands and fight the climate crisis.