Calf on grasslands

A collaboration involving ranchers, companies and the World Wildlife Fund will restore formerly plowed areas to grasslands through the seeding of native grasses. The collaboration builds on the World Wildlife Fund's Sustainable Ranching Initiative, further expanding opportunities for ranchers to implement sustainable cattle-grazing practices after plants have had time to root.

A three-year grasslands restoration program will soon take effect as a result of a partnership between Burger King, Cargill, the World Wildlife Fund and ranchers in the Northern Great Plains. The partners aim to convert about 8,000 acres of marginal cropland to ecologically diverse grasslands in Montana and South Dakota.

“Ranchers are some of the most important stewards of the grasslands of the Northern Great Plains,” said Martha Kauffman, managing director of the World Wildlife Fund’s Northern Great Plains program. “As managers of more than 70 percent of the remaining intact grasslands within the region, they hold the key to its future.”

The program partners will restore formerly plowed areas to grasslands through the seeding of native grasses. Native grasses produce roots as much as 15 feet deep. They pull carbon from the atmosphere and store it underground to support carbon sinks. The roots help reduce soil erosion and pull water underground, supporting grasslands resiliency during drought. Beef cattle will be the primary grazers. 

The partners will use monitors to measure the progress of the project including changes in soil carbon and moisture. Carbon-measurement tools also will be tested to continuously evolve best practices.

Burger King and Cargill are participating in the program to help make beef more sustainable. Burger King is working to advance commitments made through its sustainability framework, Restaurants Brands for Good. Through its BeefUp Sustainability initiative Cargill aims to reduce its beef-supply chain’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

Cattle ranchers will develop a foundation for ecosystem restoration that encourages increased participation as the program grows. The collaboration also builds on the World Wildlife Fund’s existing Sustainable Ranching Initiative, further expanding the opportunity for ranchers to implement sustainable cattle-grazing practices after plants have had time to root. Visit rbi.com and click on the sustainability tab, and Cargill.com and click on the sustainability tab and worldwildlife.org and search for "sustainable ranching initiative" for more information.