Cattle at Wicks Prairie Photo: Ben Williams, Audubon Dakota
Currently, Audubon Dakota manages roughly 5,000 acres within the state. This would not be possible without the support and help of many different private land cooperators, agencies and programs, local businesses and individuals, and many volunteers and local Audubon Chapters.
In 2012, Audubon Dakota completed a grazing system initiative at its Frederick L. Wicks Sanctuary, near Stanley, ND, installing over 8 ½ miles of grazing infrastructure and completing a series of wetland enhancements. In order to improve the quality of grassland and wetland habitat on Audubon’s Edward M. Brigham III Alkali Lake Sanctuary and surrounding areas, Audubon Dakota is implementing a prescribed grazing system as its primary management tool. As grasslands continue to be degraded and lost from the drift prairie landscape, prairie and grassland birds and wildlife have suffered dramatic declines in numbers. The ultimate goal of the project is to use cattle in a managed rotational system to increase nesting, brooding, and feeding cover for grassland birds, and generally create more hunting and outdoor recreation opportunities. The intent is for the fencing and water systems to be installed during the spring and summer of 2016 so that grazing can commence as soon as possible.
It’s been shown that when used effectively, cattle are one of the best tools for creating high quality habitat for birds and wildlife. That is why the Audubon Society has developed the Conservation Ranching Program on the national level. This program is focused on partnering with grassfed cattle ranchers to ensure grasslands are properly grazed and managed for grassland bird species, while at the same time, these ranchers get to explore a higher market premium for their products.