BISMARCK STAND STAFF
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is helping fund a $12.5 million effort to boost grassland habitats in the northern Great Plains.
The goals of the program include placing approximately 62,000 acres of land under conservation easements, restoring 70,000 acres of habitat for wildlife, removing or improving 44 miles of fencing to wildlife-friendly specifications, and maintaining 31 larger sage grouse leks or breeding grounds. Sage grouse, pronghorn, and mule deer are among the North Dakota wildlife expected to benefit.
“In addition to enhancing and preserving wildlife habitat for species such as the black-footed ferret and black grouse, these projects also focus on climate resilience and maintaining healthy rural economies in partnership with tribal and ranching communities,” said Jeff Tandahl, executive director and CEO of the foundation chartered by Congress in 1984.
The foundation is awarding 18 grants totaling $5.8 million, which will generate $6.7 million in matching contributions.
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The North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition is getting $350,000 to improve livestock practices on more than 50,000 acres to increase grassland habitat. The North Dakota Natural Resources Trust is getting $500,000 to improve or restore more than 35,000 acres of habitat.
Ducks Unlimited will receive $297,000 to support efforts to improve the capacity of 10,000 acres in the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming to sequester climate-warming carbon.
The Mule Deer Foundation has been awarded a $270,000 grant to hire a habitat partnership coordinator in the Dakota Grasslands region. The goal is conservation projects to restore the habitats of mule deer, sage, pronghorn and other animals in western North Dakota, eastern Montana, northwestern South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming.
“The Dakota Grasslands Habitat Partnership Coordinator will be our first conservation officer with a focus on the eastern mule deer range, which is dominated by private land with mixed federal and state land,” said Steve Belinda, director of conservation for the Mule Deer foundation.
The new full-time staff position will work with the federal Bureau of Land Management; North Dakota Game and Fish Department; South Dakota Game, Fishing and Parks; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; and Wyoming Game and Fish, as well as industry and conservation partners.
For years, departments and partners of the Mule Deer Foundation have organized volunteer days to improve the living environment in the Dakotas, said Marshall Johnson, who serves as the foundation’s director of field operations and directs the group’s efforts in the Dakotas. The habitat partnership coordinator will drive those efforts, he said.
“This is good for mule deer, but also hundreds of other species that depend on our native grasslands,” he said.