Environmental group develops plan to save millions of acres of native grassland

Kelly Anthony checks on his cattle in his pasture. Behind him are rolling hills of grassland in the southern high plains, where he has worked at restoring some of his land.


The environmental group, The Nature Conservancy, is into a year old $42 million program to preserve and restore nearly 30 million acres of grasslands in parts of Oklahoma, southwest Kansas and three other states, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado.

It’s called the Southern High Plains Initiative and major brands such as Burger King and Cargill are backing it with $5 million contributions each. Under the Initiative, ranchers who preserve grassland or convert crops back to grass receive annual payments of $45 per acre and the agreements could last up to 15 years, according to the Topeka Capital Journal.

At one point, there were 71 million acres of native grasslands across the southern High Plains. Now, about 80% of it has been lost.

This map shows the scope of the Southern High Plains Grassland Initiative and what remains. Areas in light green show all of the original grasslands, and the dark green borders show the intact grasslands the program is focused on.


Why would Cargill, Burger King and others want to be part of the program? They want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the beef they obtain in the region and believe efforts to save grasslands can be a step toward their goals.

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