Certified Angus Beef & Ducks Unlimited Work Together to Preserve Working Grasslands
Productive agriculture and conservation go hand in hand. That’s why Certified Angus Beef and Ducks Unlimited are collaborating to support family ranchers in boosting soil health, preserving wildlife habitat, and sequestering carbon. Together, the two organizations assembled half a million dollars to launch the Working Grasslands Conservation Initiative, which has since secured an additional $2.5 million in grants to fund the initiatives’ work over the next three years.
“Certified Angus Beef is committed to demonstrating the value of beef production beyond a great steak,” says Bruce Cobb, executive vice president of production for Certified Angus Beef. “Healthy ecosystems come along as a byproduct of raising the best tasting beef.”
The three-year initiative includes financial and technical assistance to interested landowners in the Northern Great Plains, notes Billy Gascoigne, Director of Agriculture and Strategic Partnerships for Ducks Unlimited. “This collaborative work rallies around ranchers,” he says, noting that beef producers face growing challenges to remain profitable and sustainable. “Ranchers are the stewards of our remaining grasslands and wetlands in some of our most priority landscapes.”
“Together, we can deploy more voluntary, incentive-based programs that work for the rancher while advancing carbon sequestration, clean water and biodiversity,” says Cobb.
The Northern Great Plains are the heart of the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR), which hosts more than 4 million ducks in its grass biomes.
Historically, half to as much as 80% of North American waterfowl utilize the PPR to nest and rear their young. This same region has been important to ruminant animals for centuries – first bison, now cattle.
“We know these grasslands evolved with grazing animals—an important factor in rangeland and soil health,” Gascoigne adds. “Working in this landscape for 85 years, we recognize that proactive work with private owners—farmers and ranchers—lets us achieve a lot more win-wins at a scale important to the sustainability of waterfowl and cattle production.”
One of the best ways to maintain these vital grasslands are through livestock integration on family farms and ranches.
“These lands are more sustainable now and in the future when they are being stewarded by ranchers grazing livestock,” Gascoigne says. “Our conservation staff live in these same communities and are vested in developing programs that meet local needs. We sit down at the kitchen tables with farm families and identify solutions through fencing, water development, cover-crop seeding, soil health evaluations, and rotational grazing to make better grass and wetland conditions.”
The people at Ducks Unlimited understand conservation biology, rangeland health and agronomy. Gascoigne adds, “We know less about how to drive value back to these ranchers so they can be economically sustainable for generations to come. The experience of Certified Angus Beef in this realm is what’s so powerful about this work: to have diversity within the sustainability views of economics—environmental, social and cultural.”
Both organizations understand maintaining grasslands requires sustained ranching. The Working Grasslands Conservation Initiative is a unique partnership for a unique time, supporting important ecosystems through family ranching.