According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Great Plains have lost more than 50 million acres over the last few years from deforestation. This is more than the Brazilian Amazon has lost. The prairie habitat is home to monarch butterflies, native bumblebees, and grassland songbirds, all of which are threatened by these changes. If the rate of conversion continues, pollinators like bees and monarch butterflies are at risk of extinction. The plowing of grasslands also jeopardizes the economic services the Great Plains provides such as filtering water and storing carbon dioxide.
Monarch butterflies make their yearly migration to Mexico and require milkweed from the prairie lands along the route for reproduction. It takes three adult generations of monarchs to complete the trip. Since the land is being plowed for crops such as wheat, corn, and soy, the monarchs' habitats are being destroyed and their numbers are dwindling. If more grasslands aren't left intact, this majestic butterfly may no longer fly gracefully across the Great Plains.
Some would argue that the land is needed for crops to meet a growing population. However, plowing up these lands does little for growing crops because these areas have poor soils and experience drought regularly. Instead, solutions like climate-smart agriculture, reduction of food waste, and improved technology would better meet the demands for more food without harming the grasslands.
Most people don't realize the drastic effects of deforestation, and time is running out. WWF is working on conservation-smart programs like Sodsaver, a prairie protection act to ensure taxpayer money does not subsidize the destruction of prairie lands, and they want to improve the way we manage crop insurance as part of the solution. WWF is also partnering with ranchers and other stakeholders to develop programs that maximize the value of unspoiled grasslands.