WWF Restores Prairie Streams

The vast semi-arid grasslands of the Northern Great Plains are laced with some of the longest stretches of free-flowing rivers in North America. These freshwater ribbons of life are habitat for species such as river otters, beavers and the endangered pallid sturgeon. Like many rivers and streams worldwide, they are challenged by dams and reservoirs, the diversion of streams for irrigation and unsustainable cattle grazing.

This spring, WWF and the American Prairie Foundation took a major step towards conserving freshwater habitats in the Northern Great Plains through the restoration of natural flows on Box Elder Creek and Telegraph Creek, major streams of the American Prairie Reserve - the world's only private prairie wildlife preserve. The first restoration work reestablished a half-mile channel of Box Elder, a tributary of Telegraph which had been destroyed by irrigation structures. WWF and partners excavated a new stream channel and planted saplings along the freshly dug banks to anchor the soil. The repaired channel reconnects 27 square miles of the Box Elder watershed - enabling fish and other aquatic life to migrate upstream.

In June, WWF continued its stream restoration work by removing two dams, one from Telegraph Creek and another from one of its tributaries, Third Creek. The dams' removal allows water to flow freely and reestablishes fish passage to the larger watershed areas of the streams. Over time, the restoration of natural flows and the associated sedimentation along Third and Telegraph Creeks will increase the diversity and abundance of its freshwater vegetation and wildlife.