At one time, prairie grasses covered over 170 million acres of North America; stretching from the Rocky Mountains past the Mississippi River, from Canada to Texas. Extremely resilient, prairie grasses survived extreme heat, long stretches of drought, and frigid winter temperatures. But 150 years ago, European settlers discovered how fertile the prairie soils were, ultimately plowing the majority of native grasses found throughout North America, to where it is today – a mere 1% of the area they previously covered. Unfortunately, remaining native grasses continue to be destroyed, whether by development or by livestock overgrazing. This demise of native grasses has directly contributed to a significant reduction in water quality, beneficial native plants, and wildlife habitat.
Native grasses play a tremendous role in the ecosystem process, with native grassland restoration providing the following benefits:
- Improved water quality and quantity. Native grasslands over a natural protection for area watersheds, and also help to increase water absorption. Water also becomes healthier, as it no longer contains common pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers.
- Protection for birds, native pollinators and other area wildlife. Today, grassland birds are experiencing a drastic reduction in population, including migrant songbirds, raptors, whooping cranes, and the prairie chicken. Protecting the prairie – their native habitat will slow this reduction, while helping to protect current species.
- Increased carbon sequestration. Studies have shown that native prairie plantings can sequester large amounts of carbon, and are far better for the environment than corn or soybean plantings.
- An increased amount of open space. While we can’t return to the 1850’s, what we can do is work to protect native prairies, while working to restore prairie grasses that have been depleted over the years.
Since 1984, HMI has worked with farmers, ranchers, and land owners, teaching them how to sequester more carbon, capture more water, and increase wildlife by helping to restore their natural habitat. If you’re looking for a gift of native prairie restoration, look no further.