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Northern Great Plains Stories

zebra mirror Greg Armfield WW1113071

Seven unsung ecosystems we need to survive

They may not be household names, but these ecosystems are vital to the health of our planet. They support an incredible range of plants and animals, as well as millions of people and their communities, and play a critical role in fighting climate change.

  • Understanding grassland loss in the Northern Great Plains

    WWF Magazine: Winter 2018
    Each year, WWF uses data from the USDA to track the conversion of grasslands to cropland across the Great Plains of North America and compare the loss to that of previous years. Here's what we found.
    numbers grassland2 winter2018
  • The next Dust Bowl? Great Plains grassland loss slows overall, but rises in South Dakota

    August 28, 2018
    WWF’s latest annual study of the extent and impact of conversion of grasslands to croplands reveals that though such activity activity generally declined across the Great Plains in 2017, it has nearly doubled in South Dakota within the same time span.
    A tractor in a field
  • 5 ways to shop and eat smarter for the climate

    As shoppers and eaters, we have immense power to save habitats, fight climate change, and keep our planet livable by taking simple actions at home and in stores every day. Here are five steps you can take right now.

    A boy in a market in Bhutan
  • 5 Reasons the Farm Bill Matters to Conservation

    April 25, 2018

    Right now, members of Congress are working out the final details of the 2018 Farm Bill, and the stakes for conservation are huge.

    Hunt's Bumble Bee on sunflower
  • Ensuring sustainable food production for people and pollinators

    WWF Magazine: Summer 2018
    Bees are arguably the most effective pollinators of crops and wild plants in North America, joined by flies, wasps, beetles, bats, butterflies, and birds.
    reveal pollen summer 2018
  • Grassland songbird populations pressured by the plow

    October 24, 2017

    Grassland birds native to the Northern Great Plains are losing vital habitat in the form of plow-up for row crop agriculture.

    bird sitting on a branch
  • Can drones help save the black-footed ferret?

    WWF Magazine: Winter 2017
    What methods are most effective for distributing sylvatic plague vaccine to prairie dogs, the endangered black-footed ferret’s prey?
    black footed ferret in the daytime
  • Del First and Ethan Three Stars are revitalizing their native Dakota language

    WWF Magazine: Summer 2017
    When Del First was growing up on Fort Peck Indian Reservation in the 1960s, everyone in his neighborhood spoke Dakota, a language of the Sioux Nation. Today, hardly anyone does.
    plains generationext summer2017
  • Grassland birds of the Northern Great Plains

    WWF Magazine: Summer 2017
    Grassland birds have taken a nosedive in recent decades: They’re the fastest-declining bird group in North America.
    Lark bunting on a shrub
  • WWF supporters raise more than $250,000 to help bison in Badlands National Park

    March 30, 2017

    In early March, nearly 2,500 people donated a total of $256,512 to extend bison habitat at the park from 57,640 acres to 80,193 acres. This will allow the park to achieve and sustain a herd of more than 1,000 bison, and will allow more park visitors to see and learn about the United States’ National mammal.

    Close-up of bison in Badlands
  • A rainfall simulator helps us understand grasslands

    WWF Magazine: Spring 2017
    Every year, trillions of gallons of rainfall and snowmelt pour into the grasslands of the Northern Great Plains. But the role the grasslands play in capturing all that liquid is often poorly understood. Enter the rainfall simulator.
    rainfall simulator 01
  • The story of soy

    December 14, 2016

    Behind beef, soy is the second largest agricultural driver of deforestation worldwide. From the Northern Great Plains of the U.S. to the Amazon of Brazil, forests, grasslands, and wetlands are being plowed up to make room for more soy production. 

    Mass soybean harvesting at a farm in Brazil
  • Cedar and steel: a day in the life of a young rancher

    November 22, 2016

    Kate Rasmussen of South Dakota offers readers a glimpse into the life of a next-generation rancher from the Northern Great Plains, one of the largest remaining intact grasslands in the world. WWF is partnering with organizations such as the South Dakota Grasslands Coalition in support of ranching families and grassland stewards like the Rasmussen family.

    Kate Rasmussen on her farm in the Northern Great Plains
  • Falling to the plow: North America’s Grasslands losing more habitat than the Brazilian Amazon

    November 16, 2016

    North America's Grasslands, a landscape that once seemed to offer the promise of endless resources, are being lost to the plow faster than deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. This year, WWF is releasing the first edition of a new annual publication called the Plowprint Report, whose purpose is to track annual grassland conversion to cropland across the Great Plains, and to provide a consistent way to measure the loss of this important habitat type.

    Badlands National Park
  • Innovations (and peanut butter) give black-footed ferrets a boost

    October 18, 2016

    An unlikely combination of peanut butter and drones has given biologists renewed hope for the future of North America’s rarest mammal, the endangered black-footed ferret. Biologists are helping these fascinating animals and their main prey—prairie dogs—fight a deadly plague by dropping peanut butter-flavored, vaccine-laced bait into their habitat.

    drone flying and delivering bait
  • A toad's disappearing act, caught on camera

    WWF Magazine: Winter 2016
    Spadefoot toads are named for the hard, wedgeshaped pads on their hind feet.
    Toad buried sand Winter 2016 Magazine
  • Cullum and Annabel Clark on the power of family

    WWF Magazine: Winter 2016
    For generations the Clark family has placed great value on time spent outdoors.
    Sunset on the plains
  • Brenda Davis on the importance of keeping things wild

    WWF Magazine: Winter 2016
    “The majesty of the Northern Great Plains is undeniable,” Davis says.
    Brenda Davis Board Report Winter 2016 Magazine
  • America the beautiful: a look at some of the country's most fascinating animals

    June 29, 2016

    From bison herds in the Northern Great Plains to polar bears in the far north of Alaska, wild creatures need our help to not only survive, but to thrive. WWF works with the government, businesses, universities, local communities, and other conservation organizations to ensure we can protect animal populations and their habitats. Take a look at a few of these amazing species found in the United States

    Bison Story 297667280
  • WWF celebrates and supports ranching stewardship programs

    Ranchers are often the first to admit they prefer to shy away from the spotlight. However, when they do participate, there is an opportunity to elevate the conversation about North American sustainable beef production and private lands stewardship while celebrating innovation and leadership with their peers. WWF supports stewardship award recognition programs in all five Northern Great Plains states (MT, ND, SD, WY, NE), where ranchers manage the majority of the NGP’s remaining intact grasslands. 

    Lyle Perman
  • Hero NGP
  • A symbol of hope: US designates bison as the national mammal

    April 27, 2016

    The bison—a resilient and iconic species roaming our Northern Great Plains—now serves as the national mammal of the United States, celebrating a species once on the brink of extinction.

    bison charging
  • Buffalo people unite

    WWF Magazine: Summer 2016
    Two tribes and a host of partners rally to restore the buffalo to tribal lands
    WWF171-flipped
  • Partnering for America's Plains

    WWF Magazine: Summer 2016
    How WWF helped assemble a broad coalition of people to conserve the Northern Great Plains
    The sun shines through clouds on the plains