(FORT COLLINS, Colo.) — NEWS: More than 200 organizations across eight sectors representing Mexico, Canada, the U.S., and Indigenous Nations, came together for two days in May for a multi-national summit to commit to conserve North America’s Central Grasslands. Hosted by the Grasslands Roadmap Planning Committee, the announcement comes from Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, one of the convening summit partners.
More than 50 million acres of grassland have been lost in the last 10 years alone and the tension between conserving and developing grasslands to meet the needs of a growing population has only increased, exacerbated further by the impacts of climate change.
Birds are good indicators of environmental health and since 1970, grassland bird species have seen a 53-percent reduction in their populations – that’s more than 720 million birds. This early warning sign reveals that these diminishing grasslands are being so severely impacted by human activities that they no longer support the same robust wildlife populations they once did.
The Central Grasslands span hundreds of millions of acres across the continent’s interior and are one of North America’s largest and most vital ecosystems. These Grasslands support crucial environmental functions like water supply, soil health and biodiversity, and are essential for agriculture, food security and supporting rural communities and economies. And, as these grasslands disappear, many benefits they provide are lost.
For example, healthy grasslands filter sediment, nutrients, and bacteria that otherwise end up in waterways, threatening fish and drinking water. Grasslands improve air quality and help mitigate the effects of climate change by sequestering carbon and increasing resilience against drought, fire and wind erosion.
So, what can be done to reverse the trends? That was the main driver behind the Central Grasslands Roadmap and recent summit meeting.
“Many are working to conserve our grasslands, but our disparate efforts are not adding up to change the trajectory and ensure resilient grasslands for the future. We have to prioritize what needs to happen, from funding and policy to partnerships and engagement, to science and conservation delivery – all aligned for the future,” Tammy VerCauteren, Roadmap convener and executive director at Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, says.
Collectively, they’re working to make a movement to save the grasslands and the people and wildlife that depend on them.
“Together we can ensure access, opportunities and dedicated resources that are relevant and honor cultural values and knowledge across our three countries and the traditional landscapes of Indigenous/Tribal Sovereign Nations,” VerCauteren says.
Graeme Patterson, director, JV8 Central Grasslands Conservation Initiative explains that The Central Grasslands Roadmap has been a model exercise in bringing diverse sectors together to chart a path for conservation.
“The complex and painstaking process of giving everyone voice in the Roadmap development will pay huge dividends as all stakeholders will see themselves in the process and be ready to act,” Patterson says. “Successful conservation is dependent on true collaboration and thoughtful planning. Together, we will succeed.”
About The Central Grasslands Roadmap:
The Central Grasslands Roadmap was launched in 2020 to guide and inform innovative and connected conservation for the benefit of grassland birds, pollinators and mammals, as well as to ensure viable human communities across the landscape of one of North America’s most biogeographically unique areas.
The Roadmap community includes a cross-section of leaders and experts that live and work in the Central Grasslands – including producers on working land, Indigenous/First Nations, federal, state and provincial agencies, foundations, industry, and nongovernmental organizations including land trusts, tribal representatives and academia.
About Bird Conservancy of the Rockies:
Bird Conservancy of the Rockies is one of 25 Roadmap planning committee member organizations. The Colorado-based nonprofit works to conserve birds and their habitats through an integrated approach of science, education and land stewardship. Their work extends from the Rockies to the Great Plains, Mexico and beyond.
The Grasslands Roadmap: https://www.grasslandsroadmap.org/
Photos (more available on request): https://www.grasslandsroadmap.org/digitalmediaresources
Bird Conservancy of the Rockies: https://www.birdconservancy.org/
Related link: https://www.birdconservancy.org/
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