I find that most people, aware and despairing about Climate Change, are in a state of paralysis. It is clear that simply recycling our own cans and addressing our personal “carbon footprints” alone is not enough to address the climate disasters we are experiencing and facing. Yet most of us don’t know about the robust, well-studied, and practiced solutions to climate change that already exist. My series on Climate Solutions is intended to educate and inspire real, concrete action and change. “Restore the Prairies” is the first piece in this series.
A QR code is intentionally part of this image, so that viewers may scan it and be directed towards a host of resources, including concrete ways to take action and make a difference.
For thousands of years, indigenous people across the great plains and prairies of North America have stewarded the land. Their methods include cultivating and harvesting enormous herds of Bison, and regularly burning prairie grasses to improve biodiversity. This has resulted in some of the richest soil on Earth, a durable and expandable carbon sink, and a regenerative food supply.
How it works:
- Restoring land to Indigenous ownership, control, sovereignty, and stewardship is an essential movement towards justice, often known as LandBack. In the late 1880s, the United States Government attempted to eradicate the bison intentionally, in order to decimate and control Indigenous native americans. We can and should cede land back to native tribes. We can and should trust indigenous communities to steward the land and the bison - and doing so would be a gift to us all.
- Bison are a keystone species of the prairie: unlike cattle, their grazing behavior preserves and promotes native grasses; their wallowing behavior creates miniature oases for water capture and propagation of diverse prairie wildlife; their hooves aerate the soil and enhance water penetration instead of compacting it; their manure and migration patterns fertilize and enrich the soil. They are a food source which enhances carbon capture, in contrast to conventional agriculture, which is a massive contributor to climate change.
- By honoring and following Indigenous leadership, by supporting Indigenous communities in restoring bison to the prairie, we can restore the great prairies. Not only do prairies host vast biodiversity, they durably capture carbon below ground (even more so than forests) in ways that are resistant to cycles of burning, enhance water capture and filtration, and boost soil richness.
Actions you can take:
- Call and write your elected officials and tell them you care about Climate Change. Inform them about this solution. Find out who your electeds are and get their contact information here.
- If you eat meat, eat more bison! Buy it at your local grocery or consider ordering frozen meat from a regenerative source. Force of Nature is a great option.
- Volunteer and/or donate resources and money to a Native-led organization.
- Spirit of the Sun empowers Native communities, one youth at a time in Denver, CO
- Cultural Survival amplifies and supports Native-led projects
- RAVEN provides legal support to Native communities fighting for their land and (all of our) environmental rights
- Learn More! There are some great resources below:
Restore Indigenous Leadership:
- Spirit of the Sun Spirit of the Sun’s Landback initiative writes: “Landback is an Indigenous-led environmental, cultural and political movement that works to place Indigenous land back in Indigenous hands. At Spirit of the Sun, we believe in rematriation. Rematriation signifies a return to Mother Earth and a re-establishment of the important relationship between people and land. By placing land back in the hands of Indigenous people, we are choosing to disrupt systems of patriarchy, oppression and violence by instead affirming the value of relationships and intentional, reciprocal care above all forms of profit and extraction. Land stewarded by Indigenous people contains a significant portion of our Earth's biodiversity, and we need to trust that returning land to Indigenous people is a step towards returning our world to a more healed and balanced system. We need the support of allies who are truly committed to restorative justice, in order to place land back in the care of Indigenous people. Please join us in this work.”
- The Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council (ITBC)
- RAVEN, Providing access to justice for Indigenous Nations
- Indigenous Leadership for Indigenous Solutions
- “From Land-Grant to #LandBack: A story of loss and resilience”
- #LandBack is the solution
Restore the Bison:
- Force of Nature Meats
- Restoring the Prairie, Mending the Sacred Hoop: Prairie Conservation and Restoration on the Cheyenne River Reservation (.pdf)
- The Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Restoring Native Buffalo
- The Wanuskewin Bison: “The grasslands of North America are one of the most endangered biomes in the world. By introducing bison back to the land, we are able to help restore native grasses and create a habitat for an animal who was all but extinct in the late 1800s. We aim to restore this land back to balance, where animals, grasslands, human populations, and spirit are whole again.”
- Migrating Bison Engineer the Green Wave
- The InterTribal Buffalo Council partners with the Nature Conservancy
Restore the Prairies, Reverse Climate Change:
- Project Drawdown:
- Science: Grassland soil carbon sequestration: Current understanding, challenges, and solutions
- Nature: Climate warming from managed grasslands cancels the cooling effect of carbon sinks in sparsely grazed and natural grasslands
- Native Plants Store Carbon
- UC Davis: Grasslands more reliable carbon sink than trees
- Tallgrass Ontario: Tallgrass prairie and carbon sequestration
- Washington Post: Storing Carbon in the Prairie Grass
- MN Board of Soil and Water Resources: Carbon sequestration in grasslands
- USDA: Grassland Carbon Management
- National Geographic Education: Prairies
Above image: "Bison Shadow Box" Mixed media, by Leah Bry 2023