On July 27th, the North American Grasslands Conservation Act was introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D) Oregon and co-sponsored by Senator Michael Bennet (D) Colorado and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota. This bill dedicates $312 million to restoration efforts.
The findings in Section #2 of the summary substantiate the need for this bill. “Grasslands, including sagebrush shrub-steppe systems, are some of the most threatened ecosystems in the world. These ecosystems are working lands that are critical for rural economies, carbon sequestration, and wildlife habitat but are at risk from fragmentation, invasive species, catastrophic wildfire, and degradation. As these ecosystems decline, the country has lost more and more grassland ecosystem wildlife, particularly grassland and sagebrush birds.”
This act includes four major initiatives:
1. Establish a North American Grassland Conservation Strategy for the protection, restoration, and management of grassland ecosystems across North America.
2. Establish a flexible Grassland Conservation Grant Program for voluntary, incentive-based conservation of grasslands, including projects to restore degraded grasslands, increase carbon sequestration, improve grassland and rangeland health, mitigate the threats of wildfire and drought, improve biodiversity, and support habitat connectivity and restore watersheds.
3. Create National and Regional Grassland Conservation Councils to recommend and approve grassland conservation projects to be funded under the grant program.
4. Establish research initiatives on native seed crop systems and regenerative grazing practices.
These are significant undertakings and will need the support of conservation minded Republicans. Since approximately 85% of grasslands are privately held, incentivizing best stewardship practices could attract support from more lawmakers.
According to Outdoor Life, the bill has support from nearly two dozen conservation groups including the National Deer Association, Pheasants Forever and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “Sportsmen and women cherish our ability to retreat to the backcountry, and for many that is represented by rolling grasslands or the sagebrush steppe,” says Land Tawney, president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers in support of the legislation. “Hunters who wade through these landscapes with a bird dog ahead of them and a shotgun in hand recognize firsthand the threats to our native grasslands.”
This bill merits your support.