U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE rightcorner.GIF (907 bytes)
 Mountain-Prairie Region  Partners for Fish & Wildlife
Introduction and General Description
arial photo of North Dakota wetlands Located in the heart of the Prairie Pothole Region, North Dakota contains wetland densities exceeding 150 wetlands per square mile in many areas.

The Prairie Pothole Region is legendary as North America’s foremost producer of ducks. And North Dakota, the top duck producing state in the Nation, lies in the heart of this region. Wetland densities in North Dakota commonly reach as high as 100-150 wetlands per square mile, making it not only an important breeding area for ducks, but also a key breeding and migratory area for over 70 wetland-dependent migratory bird species. With over 90% of North Dakota lands in private ownership, the North Dakota Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s most important programs to restore and maintain habitat for migratory bird populations in the Central Flyway.

Since 1987, the North Dakota Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program has matched federal funds with donated private funds and North American Wetland Conservation Act grants to restore, create, and enhance wildlife habitat on more than 144,000 acres of private land in the state (equal to 225 square miles).

The Partners Program boasts projects in all 52 counties of North Dakota, in cooperation with 2,753 farmers and ranchers, who themselves have donated over $1 million in direct payment and hands-on work to develop new habitat and to initiate conservation-oriented agricultural practices that benefit wildlife.


The goals of the North Dakota Partners Program serve to enhance wildlife populations and the Fish and Service's ability to fulfill its mission in other programs, particularly the National Wildlife Refuge System. They are:

  • Restore and enhance wildlife habitat to meet goals and priorities of national and state-level plans
  • Seek and maintain active partnerships with other entities to maximize cost distribution and coordinated efforts.
  • Implement habitat enhancement that harmonizes with agricultural operations as much as possible for long-term acceptance.
  • Develop positive, cooperative relationships with as many landowners as possible.


Priorities for North Dakota Partners activities are aligned with those of Fish and Wildlife Service priorities and our partners, and tie directly to restoration and management of federal trust species. They are (in priority order):

  • Restore, enhance and establish habitat for Endangered and Threatened Species.
  • Restore, enhance and establish habitat for Declining Species and Species of Special Concern.
  • Restore, enhance and establish habitat for other Migratory Birds.


For the most part, guidelines for implementation of the North Dakota Partners Program are based on population goals, and planned for and implemented across large landscapes. The following plans and policies are used to establish goals and priorities of the Program.

  • Recovery Plans for Endangered and Threatened Species
  • Population objectives of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, under frameworks developed by the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture Management Board and the Northern Great Plains Joint Venture Management Board, with specific habitat objectives developed under the "multi-agency approach to planning and evaluation", defined for each Fish and Wildlife Service Wetland Management District in North Dakota.
  • Objectives of the Fish and Wildlife Service Ecosystem Plan for the Region 6 portion of the Missouri River and Hudson Bay Watersheds.
  • Partners in Flight Bird Conservation Plans for their Northern Mixed Grass Prairie, Northern Tallgrass Prairie and West River Physiographic Regions.
  • United States Shorebird Conservation Plan.
  • Existing programs, policies and priorities of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Wildlife Refuges System.

Technical Assistance

Rolling grasslands interspersed with pothole wetlands in North Dakota photoVast amounts of data and information exist to direct habitat management in the Prairie Pothole Region. The Partners Program utilizes proven habitat practices that benefit wildlife and can be incorporated into an established agricultural operation to assure projects remain in place for the long term. In most instances, the level of assistance provided by the Partners Program is first determined with checklists developed to assure that the location and extent of our work is effectively tied to Program goals and priorities. The four most common types of projects implemented by the North Dakota Partner Program and its partners include:

  • Hydrological restoration of drained wetlands. Wetlands are restored by the North Dakota Partners Program through the installation of ditch plugs or by filling shallow, excavated ditches leading out of drained wetlands. Natural revegetation occurs within the first year following restoration of hydrology, primarily due to the rich seed source from surrounding wetlands and the revival of viable yet dormant seed bank in the wetland soils.

Approximately 30% of all wetlands restored by the Partners Program are perpetually protected with a Fish and Wildlife Service Wetland Easement at a cost of approximately $50-$100 per acre. North Dakota Partners Program restorations are some of the most economical in the country.

  • Restoration of native prairie vegetation on cropland. The North Dakota Partners Program provides seed and technical assistance while the landowner provides the inkind services to replant native grasses and forbs on the same land. Upland restoration and enhancement consists mainly of seeding cropland to native, mixed-grass species such as western wheatgrass, green needlegrass, little bluestem.
  • Establishment of rotational grazing systems on degraded native prairie. This type of project is done to maintain adequate patch size required by a variety of grassland birds, and to restore, through timely management of grazing, the native prairie flora that otherwise would be further reduced by the pre-existing grazing method.  Rest-rotation grazing systems on native rangeland allow up to a full year’s rest for rotating cells.
  • Establishment of new wetlands. The nature of the Northern Great Plains, including numerous watersheds, abundant grass and low Predation rates, provides the Partners Program with exceptional opportunities for establishment of headwater wetlands that enhance breeding and migrational habitat for numerous wildlife species.