Grasslands and Sagebrush Conservation Is Focus of New Senate Legislation

News for Immediate Release
July 27, 2022
Contact: Katie McKalip, 406-240-9262, [email protected]


The North American Grasslands Conservation Act, introduced today, would support the voluntary conservation and restoration of grasslands and sagebrush ecosystems

WASHINGTON – Legislation introduced in the Senate this morning by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the North American Grasslands Conservation Act, would authorize the investment of $290 million annually in grants to incentivize the voluntary conservation of grasslands and the sagebrush steppe, among the most valuable – and most threatened – ecosystems in North America.

Relied upon by sportsmen and women, landowners, tribal nations and rural communities, grasslands and sagebrush landscapes are critical to a range of wildlife species, including mule deer, pronghorn and bison as well as upland birds like bobwhite quail. Yet the future of these resources is uncertain; 50 million acres of grassland habitat have been lost just in the last decade. Consequently, the bill would create the first ever North American Grassland Conservation Strategy for their protection and enhancement, drawing from and coordinating existing regional conservation plans and frameworks including Tribal Conservation Plans, NRCS Working Lands for Wildlife Frameworks and State Wildlife Action Plans.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is working in partnership with a broad coalition of organizations to advance the legislation. Today, BHA President and CEO Land Tawney welcomed the bill’s introduction, highlighting its potential impact to places and species cherished by sportsmen and women.

“When we get this bill across the finish line, the implications for grasslands and the sage steppe will be tremendous,” said Tawney. “Look no further than a similar piece of legislation, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, or NAWCA, for evidence. Since its passage in 1989, NAWCA has been responsible for the conservation of more than 30 million acres of wetlands, benefiting waterfowl, fisheries and hunters and anglers. This new legislation would give us the tools to conserve grasslands in the same way.

“Together we have the power to create an indelible legacy for our nation’s grasslands habitat, the wildlife that relies on it, and our outdoor traditions,” Tawney continued. “BHA is proud to stand side by side with so many of our partners in conservation in support of this effort, and we thank Senator Wyden and other foresighted Senate leaders for their determined efforts to advance the North American Grasslands Conservation Act. We have much to do to complete our work here, and today was a great step in that direction.”

In addition to BHA, conservation organizations including Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation PartnershipNational Wildlife FederationNorth American Grouse PartnershipWorld Wildlife FundIzaak Walton League of AmericaWildlife MississippiNational Deer AssociationLand Trust AllianceNative American Fish and Wildlife SocietyNational Bobwhite Conservation InitiativeAmerican Bird Conservancy and the Buffalo Nations Grasslands Alliance have promoted this effort since 2020.

BHA chapters today commended the bill’s introduction:

“Oregon’s sagebrush shrub-steppe and grassland habitat is critical in recovering dwindling sage grouse and mule deer. Right now, these populations need more attention than ever if we want to see them on Oregon’s landscape for future generations. We have a short timeline to restore these threatened ecosystems and we cannot commend Senator Wyden enough for introducing and prioritizing this bill.” – Ian Isaacson, Oregon BHA board co-chair

“The Colorado chapter of BHA thanks Senator Bennet for taking action to combat the loss of our grassland and sagebrush ecosystems through his leadership on the North American Grasslands Conservation Act. This bold new legislation would benefit sportsmen and women by conserving grassland landscapes through voluntary incentive programs, improving habitat for species ranging from upland birds to big game.” – Don Holmstrom and David Lien, Colorado BHA board co-chairs

“The Kansas chapter of BHA strongly supports the North American Grasslands Conservation Act. Our chapter has been involved in education efforts on the importance of grasslands in the state of Kansas for quite a while. Through our Kansas BHA Podcast we have featured several individuals and organizations that have spoken directly on the importance of grasslands to all Kansans. When passed, the North American Grasslands Conservation Act will become a great voluntary tool for the restoration and preservation of this vital part of our beautiful state.” – Kurt Ratzlaff, Kansas BHA board chair

“Minnesota Chapter of BHA would like to thank Senator Amy Klobuchar for co-sponsoring the North American Grasslands and Conservation Act. The focus of this legislation will positively impact Minnesota hunters and continue to make our a state a national destination for upland hunting. Improvement and conservation of grasslands in Western Minnesota will benefit not just game birds, but many other bioindicator species in our state.” – Eli Mansfield, Minnesota BHA board treasurer

“The Oklahoma chapter of BHA stands in strong support of the North American Grasslands Conservation Act. The tallgrass prairies of the Great Plains have played a vital role in our state’s history, and though a majority of them have been lost, the Black Kettle, Rita Blanca and Flint Hills grasslands continue to play a part of our state’s legacy. This act will allow for the continued opportunity to protect what we believe to be one of the most important ecosystems in America.” – Oklahoma BHA

BHA members are contacting their senators now in support of the North American Grasslands Conservation Act.

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