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Game and Fish launches project to restore prairie grasses

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ND Game and Fish

A new statewide strategy launched by North Dakota Game and Fish will team landowners, conservation groups, scientists and other to restore, enhance and sustain native grasslands in North Dakota.

It’s called the Meadowlark Initiative.

Game and Fish Conservation and Communications chief Greg Link said the idea came about because the state has lost more than 70 percent of its native prairie.

"Really, that is the ultimate buffet for a lot of those different species," Link said.

Link said with efforts like the Conservation Reserve Program, the Department has been focused on growing grasslands – but those efforts weren’t focused directly on native grasses.

"We were working on revising our state action plan, for address our most rare and declining species," Link said. "A lot of those are pollinators and grassland birds."

Link said with those species, things are not going in the right direction.

"The red light's blinking," Link said.

The Meadowlark Initiative is especially focused on ranchers and other ag producers. Link said it will help those who have livestock on the prairie.

"If they slip away, then so does the need for that native prairie," Link said. "Cattle are the reason there is grass. In order to keep the grasslands healthy, we need cattle, we need ranchers."

Link said the grasslands sequester carbon, provide for wildlife habitat, allow water to infiltrate, and promote soil health.

Under the Initiative, producers can plant marginal cropland back to native grasslands for grazing. Cost-shares will be available for installing fencing and water. Producers can also qualify for rental payments, as the land transfers from cropland to grazing land.

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