Land Use Conversion

Past cultivation of the most productive grassland soils has enabled the Great Plains to become one of the most agriculturally productive regions of the world, but this land use conversion has also reduced wildlife habitat, water quality, soil health, and carbon storage potential. WLFW’s Framework seeks to avoid further grassland loss within landscape cores and strategically restore marginal croplands back to grassland.

Strategic Approach

WLFW’s approach for tackling this threat emphasizes transitioning of expiring Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)-enrolled lands to grazing operations, proactive easement acquisition, and revegetating previously cultivated lands in otherwise intact landscapes that are at-risk of cultivation or development. For more information on how to apply this strategy, view this technical video:


Spatial Data

The maps below enable practitioners to rapidly visualize and analyze opportunities for threat reduction. Local maps and data should also be incorporated, where available, to refine conservation delivery. Multiple spatial data types should be used in combination to meet WLFW’s strategic approach.

  1. Cultivation Risk. This map depicts the probability of cultivation relative to climate, temperature, soils, and topography. It can be used to identify intact grasslands and where there is potential to maintain and expand grasslands in landscape cores with low cultivation risk. More details on this product available here. Map of
cultivation risk.

  2. Conservation Reserve Program Statistics. Monthly CRP summary data are available, including county-level maps depicting CRP enrollment and expiration across the U.S. The products can be used to inform targeting efforts to transition CRP to grazing lands. More details on this product available here.

  3. RAP Vegetation Cover. These maps provide annual percent cover estimates from 1984 to present of: annual forbs and grasses, perennial forbs and grasses, shrubs, trees, and bare ground. The data can be used to identify relatively unfragmented grassland cores and monitor the efficacy of conservation actions at preventing land use conversion. More details on this product available here. Map of annual
cover.

  4. RAP Biomass. These maps provide annual and 16-day aboveground biomass from 1986 to present of: annual forbs and grasses, perennial forbs and grasses, and herbaceous (combination of annual and perennial forbs and grasses). Estimates represent accumulated new biomass throughout the year or 16-day period and do not include biomass accumulation in previous years. The data can be used to quantify rangeland productivity protected, enhanced, or restored. More details on this product available here. Map of annual biomass.