What are the Central Grasslands?

The Central Grasslands span over 700 million acres across Sovereign Indigenous Nation Lands, Canada, the United States and Mexico. As one of North America’s largest and most vital ecosystems, the Central Grasslands support critical environmental functions including water supply, soil health, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity and are also essential for agriculture, food security and supporting rural communities and diverse cultures

For example, healthy grasslands filter sediment, nutrients, and bacteria that end up in waterways, threatening aquatic life and contaminating our drinking water. Grasslands are the lungs of our nation, and work to improve air quality and help mitigate the effects of climate change by storing carbon in the soil, while increasing resilience against drought, fire and wind erosion. Healthy grasslands also provide vital habitat for wildlife including grazing animals like bison, pronghorn and livestock.

What is the problem?

Click to enlarge the map. For more information about this map, visit the assessment map page.

The Central Grasslands are rapidly declining and so are biodiversity and measures of human community health. Annually, this biome loses up to four million acres, two million acres to conversion and an additional two million acres to the encroachment of woody plants. More than 50 million acres of grasslands have been lost in the last 10 years alone and as grasslands disappear, so do the benefits they provide. This loss negatively impacts current and future generations.

The image to the left illustrates the extent of the Central Grasslands. The purple (“converted/encroached”) on the map indicates historic grassland converted to cropland or encroached by woody plants. The yellow (“vulnerable”) on the map indicates intact grassland at high risk of conversion to cropland or woody plant encroachment. The green (“cores”) on the map indicates grassland at lower risk of conversion to cropland and least compromised by woody plant encroachment. Preventing more loss of intact habitat is necessary for maintaining ecological function, protecting critical habitat, supporting grass-based economies and anchoring restored and improved areas.

What is the solution?

The Central Grasslands Roadmap aims to guide and inform innovative and connected conservation for the benefit of grasslands, grassland birds, pollinators and mammals. The Roadmap also works to ensure viable human communities across the landscape of one of North America’s most biogeographically unique areas. So much of our collective cultural heritage and roots are bound within the Central Grasslands.

The Roadmap community partnership includes a cross-section of leaders, experts, and stewards of the land across three countries and multiple Indigenous Nations along with seven sectors that live and work in the Central Grasslands — including producers on working land, federal, state and provincial agencies, foundations, industry, and nongovernmental organizations including; land trusts, conservation organizations, and academia.

The Central Grasslands Roadmap is a collaborative guide to increase conservation of North America’s Central Grasslands, which span over 700 million acres across Indigenous Lands, Canada, the United States and Mexico. By bringing together these diverse nations and sectors, the Roadmap puts forth a shared vision, common principles, and collaborative priorities for the many people and organizations living and working on the Central Grasslands. The time to act is now!

The vision of the Central Grassland Roadmap ultimately outlines:

  • Thriving rural communities and economies
  • Resilient Indigenous Nations and groups reconnecting to homelands and ancestral kinships
  • Flourishing ecosystems of soil, plants, wildlife and ecosystem processes
  • Working lands with healthy grazing populations
  • Millions of acres of resilient and connected habitat
  • Dynamic and multi-faceted approaches to sustainable grasslands management
  • Policies and extensive investments to support grasslands conservation with local expertise
  • International commitments for grassland funding
  • Sustainable agriculture and sustainable energy development in grasslands
  • Rivers and wetlands within grasslands supporting habitat, aquifers, production and people

Visit the Central Grasslands Roadmap website to learn more.

Meet the Central Grasslands Roadmap Director

Maggie Hanna joins the Central Grasslands Roadmap team from the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT). Most recently, Maggie served CCALT as the Director of External Relations. In her time at CCALT she facilitated conservation easements, supported annual conservation easement monitoring, fundraised and managed the Leopold Conservation Award. Prior to pursuing work in the conservation space, Maggie was a member of El Pomar Foundation’s Fellowship Program, and spent a year in central Oregon as an Americorps volunteer working alongside the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District to develop and implement the Agora Platform, a project sourcing mechanism designed to better connect funders with rural community projects and needs. Maggie grew up on her family’s ranch on the eastern plains of Colorado, where she lives and works to this day.

Central Grasslands Roadmap Director, Maggie Hanna

Surveying Birds

The Role of Bird Conservancy

Bird Conservancy of the Rockies has been working to restore grasslands and grassland bird populations since 1988. It’s safe to say that grassland conservation is in our DNA. Our efforts have helped restore more than 1.5 million acres across northern Mexico and the north/central Great Plains. However, nearly 4 million acres of grasslands are lost annually from Canada to Mexico. And grassland birds are disappearing faster than any other group of birds on the continent, necessitating a plan to help stem these losses.

Bird Conservancy of the Rockies stepped in and catalyzed the Central Grasslands Roadmap effort beginning in 2018. Currently we serve as the Backbone Organization of the Roadmap, tirelessly working with our partners to restore North America’s grasslands.