On 7.27.22 the North American Grasslands Conservation Act was introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D) of Oregon with co-sponsorship from Senator Michael Bennet (D)- Colo and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D)- Minn. It would dedicate $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 would initiate four major areas:
-Establish a North American Grassland Conservation Strategy for the protection, restoration and management of grassland ecosystems across North America.
-Establishes 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.
-Creates National and Regional Grassland Conservation Councils to recommend and approve grassland conservation projects to be funded under the grant program.
-Establishes research initiatives on native seed crop systems and regenerative grazing practices.
These are significant undertakings and will need the support of conservation Republicans. Since approximately 85% of grasslands are privately held, an incentive mechanism for best stewardship practices could bring more legislators into the fold.
According to Outdoor Life, it has support from nearly two dozen conservation groups including the National Deer Association, Pheasants Forever and Backcounty 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,” Land Tawney, president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, says 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 is a bill worth supporting.