We help landowners and land managers apply bird-friendly practices, and drive solutions that influence ecosystem health at scale
Cows grazing at Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center.
As farms and cities in the central United States flourished, prairie grasses disappeared. Tallgrass prairie is now among our most endangered habitats—only about 4 percent remains. Prairie birds have shown the most sustained population declines of any bird group in North America. Audubon is partnering with ranchers who own remaining grasslands to develop market-based management that benefits prairie birds while sustaining the livelihoods of the ranchers.
Most of the vast native prairie that originally covered over 300 million acres of the Great Plains has been lost to conversion to agriculture and development. The grasslands that remain have been degraded by a range of factors, including invasive species encroachment, urbanization, energy development, and unsustainable livestock management practices. As a result, grassland birds have suffered an unparalleled decline over the past half century. This calls for Audubon's action.
To combat the negative effects of grassland degradation---and to keep grass on the landscape---Audubon has developed the Conservation Ranching program. This market-based conservation approach offers incentives for good grassland stewardship through a certification label on beef products. For the first time, consumers can contribute to grassland conservation efforts by selectively purchasing beef from Audubon-certified farms and ranches.
Regenerative grazing practices are adopted that mimic past grazing by bison. Pastures are allowed to rest and recover, resulting in a diversity of grassland vegetation across a ranch. To be certified, each ranch must also meet program protocols related to Forage and Feeding, Animal Health & Welfare, and Environmental Sustainability. Animals in the program must spend their entire lives on grasslands. Feedlots are not allowed, and growth hormones and antibiotics are strictly prohibited.
The Audubon certification seal is expected to bring a broad market appeal that should enhance demand by consumers that want options for beef that is sustainably raised and benefits wildlife habitat.
For more information about conservation ranching, visit Audubon’s FAQs page here.