North Dakota Wildlife Action Plan

By the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

The North Dakota Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy is a habitat-based approach to conserving all types of fish and wildlife including rare, declining, common, nongame and game species. Nine landscape components, or major habitat types such as mixed-grass prairie, wetlands/lakes, badlands, or upland deciduous forest, comprise the habitat found in North Dakota. Twenty-one focus areas represent unique natural community types rare to North Dakota or are habitats outlined as especially crucial to species of conservation priority.

The strategy provides a framework for developing coordinated conservation actions involving partners to safeguard all fish and wildlife resources found in the state. The key to ensuring long-term survival of these resources in North Dakota is to maintain diverse grasslands, wetlands, woodlands, rivers and streams.


Nearly 90 percent of North Dakota is held in private ownership, with much of that land entered into various agricultural practices. Cropland, rangeland, prairie, wetland, and woodland components are the framework of a farm or ranch, and the majority of the state’s habitat. Working with landowners to conserve fish and wildlife resources is a top priority.

Wildlife Highlights

Baird’s sparrows fill the prairie with song heard in few other places. Endless flocks of migrating ducks and geese find food and rest on countless wetlands and rivers. North Dakota is one of the last strongholds for the ancient pallid sturgeon.

Primary Challenges to Conserving Wildlife in North Dakota

North Dakota’s plan identifies habitat loss, fragmentation, degradation, invasive and noxious species, pesticides, industrial development, human impacts, and conservation awareness as common challenges for managing fish and wildlife across all habitat types.

Habitat Loss

Direct loss of habitat was identified as a key threat to wildlife in North Dakota. The prairies are at risk of being converted to farmland and other uses which result in the complete loss of grassland. A minimum of 25 bird species of conservation concern require expanses of prairie to maintain populations.

Habitat degradation is of concern to the quality of wildlife habitat. For example, grazing practices that result in little to no residual vegetation or allow for direct contact with wetlands or streams (thereby degrading water quality) are of concern. The loss of fire regime, a natural element of the prairie cycle, allows woody invasion of grassland that can be detrimental to some grassland species of wildlife. 

Working Together for North Dakota’s Wildlife

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department invited over 60 Federal, state and local agencies, conservation groups, and local experts to provide comments on identifying species of conservation priority, offer feedback on the development of the strategy, and identify ways to strengthen partnerships. Expert meetings were held to gather more specific information on threats and to determine necessary conservation actions, monitoring and survey efforts needed.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department informed the public and provided an opportunity for input on fish and wildlife issues through the Department’s monthly magazine, news releases, radio and television programs, website, and other media outlets throughout the state.


The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies represents all of North America’s fish and wildlife agencies, promotes sound management and conservation, and speaks with a unified voice on important fish and wildlife issues.

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