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© John Ruth

Northern Plains

Threats to Northern Plains

Millions of acres of the Northern Plains have been converted for crop production and energy development. Much of the remainder is subject to intensive grazing. These practices have led and continue to lead to habitat loss, declining biodiversity, and fragmentation. What’s at stake is the habitat providing forage, nesting and cover for a host of plains species, including bison, prairie dogs and the endangered black-footed ferret. Threats are directly impacting our plains wildlife and habitats and indirectly exacerbating other threats, as is the case with climate change. Disease is also a threat.

The black-footed ferret is the most endangered mammal in North America and its populations are dependent upon healthy prairie dog communities. These species are both susceptible to sylvatic plague, a disease that has decimated prairie dog communities across the Great Plains. The impacts of these threats on wildlife and habitat availability are serious. Coordinated conservation strategies will continue to be essential to protect our plains wildlife resources for future generations.