Published: November 23, 2016
For years, grasslands across the country have been plowed up to make way for the production of commodity crops, such as wheat, alfalfa, corn, and soybeans. The loss of grasslands is devastating for local ecosystems, and also has long-term, negative effects for ranchers, the hunting industry, and for communities that depend on them for flood prevention and water filtration.
Last week, the World Wildlife Fund published its annual Plowprint report, which uses National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) data to track grassland conversion. The report’s primary finding is striking:
“Since 2009, 53 million acres of grassland—an area the size of Kansas—have been converted to cropland across the Great Plains alone. That represents almost 13% of the 419 million acres that remained intact in 2009…In 2015, 3.7 million [additional] acres were converted to cropland.”
The highest conversion rate over the last year was found in northern Texas, which is in the southernmost portion of the Great Plains. Grassland conversion rates were also high in parts of North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, and Kansas.