Northwestern Great Plains

Level III Ducks Unlimited conservation priority area, full of vast grasslands ideal for waterfowl nesting habitat

The Northwestern Great Plains waterfowl conservation region is an arid to semi-arid landscape that lies west and south of the Prairie Pothole Region. The region is flat to moderately rolling except for the badlands of western North and South Dakota. Outside of riparian areas and shelterbelts, the area is a vast, treeless prairie. Compared to the PPR, relatively few natural wetlands exist; however, numerous manmade wetlands have been created for livestock and wildlife. These created wetlands have resulted in a net increase in wetlands since European settlement. Nevertheless, the NGP remains a dry environment, and the number of wetlands is believed to limit the abundance of waterfowl in the region.

Importance to waterfowl

  • Although the NGP provides important spring and fall migration habitat for waterfowl, it is most important as a duck production area.
  • Species composition of breeding ducks is similar to the PPR.
  • Vast, unfragmented grasslands of the region enable ducks to disperse their nests, presumably making them less vulnerable to predators.
  • The NGP is designated a secondary emphasis area for DU's Grasslands for Tomorrow Initiative.

Habitat issues

  • Northwestern Great Plains mapStock ponds are usually small, approximately 2 to 12 acres, wetlands that are created by impounding seasonal streams or runoff from shallow basins and are surprisingly productive habitat for waterfowl.
  • Further protection of unfragmented grasslands is needed to enable ducks to disperse their nests, making them less vulnerable to predators.

DU's conservation focus

  • Maintain the integrity of existing wetlands projects in the NGP region.
  • Under the umbrella of Grasslands for Tomorrow, DU works with federal agencies and private landowners to create and enhance wetlands.
  • Work with agencies and other organizations to protect large tracts of grasslands in areas with high wetland densities.

States in the Northwestern Great Plains region

Montana | NebraskaNorth DakotaSouth Dakota | Wyoming

More information