Prairie Potholes - The Duck Factory of North America

Sep 10, 2013

EcoFlight conducted a series of overflights with media and sportsmen groups as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s 2013 Western Media Summit in Bismarck, North Dakota. The purpose of the summits is to bring together the nation’s most influential voices in communications to discuss conservation policy and the most critical issues to hunters and anglers.

North Dakota has an abundance of traditional energy sources - oil, coal and natural gas - as well as renewable sources such as wind and biofuels. We flew over an array of these energy sources - coal, lignite coal, hydro, wind energy, gasification and oil and natural gas, and looked at how they affect the surrounding landscape and wildlife.

Every spring, millions of ducks and geese pass through the Prairie Pothole Region to nest in the grasslands. After glaciers from the last ice age receded, they left behind the largest grassland in the world, the Great Plains of North America. Millions of shallow ponds formed wetlands that are now known as prairie potholes. These wetlands are globally significant because their rich habitat supports breeding populations of migratory waterfowl.  In some regions, 50 to 90 percent of the potholes have been degraded or converted to agricultural land or energy development.

Draining and development cause a loss of 100,000 acres of wetlands each year. Sportsmen organizations are working to restore damaged wetlands and create lasting protections for the Prairie Pothole Region through both legislative and administrative actions. With such a rapid rate of loss for wetlands, there is an urgent need for administrative guidance on wetland protection. Our flights took us over the true prairie potholes to the east of Bismarck.