Often agricultural and environmental interests can be at odds. On the northern Great Plains, though, ranchers increasingly find that restoring native grasslands can benefit cattle and wildlife alike—simultaneously boosting profit and the environment. What we’re seeing in the Great Plains is that a prairie restoration movement is slowly gaining momentum.
After decades of plowing up native grasslands to plant crops, some ranchers are moving in the other direction. Helped by environmentalists in a sometimes uneasy alliance, they are restoring prairie pasture, which not only improves water retention and sequesters carbon in the soil, but can also improve their profits by creating a better feed, allowing them to brand and sell their beef directly to consumers, or through ecotourism.
Of course, farming to preserve the grasslands requires new modes of thinking. For Leo Barthelmess, a rancher in Montana, a high priority is making sure that his cattle do not overgraze an area, which means frequently moving the cows. When his father started ranching in the area in 1964, he moved cattle 10 times a year. Now, Mr. Barthelmes moves them 100 times a year, so “the grass has the opportunity to regrow.”
For an inside look into the restoration movement that’s starting to get a foothold in the Great Plains, check out this story right here.