The Plains and Prairie Pothole LCC boundary transcends existing regional boundaries and the international border with Canada (see map.). The geography includes three main sub-units, the Prairie Pothole Region, Northern Great Plains, and the riparian corridors of several major river systems including the Missouri, the Yellowstone and the Red River of the North.
The Prairie Pothole Region–includes millions of wetlands that constitute one of the richest wetland and grassland systems in the world. These “prairie potholes” and their surrounding grasslands are highly productive and support an incredible diversity of wildlife. The area provides habitat for both breeding and migrating birds, as well as a host of other wetland and native grassland dependent species, including waterfowl, shorebirds, grassland birds, native stream fishes and big river fishes such as the pallid sturgeon, and paddlefish.
Northern Great Plains – ecologically the Northern Great Plains is the most diverse subunit within the PPP LCC but also the least protected with less than two percent of the area’s 180 million acres managed for wildlife conservation. Habitats vary from riparian wetlands to isolated forested mountain ridges, such as the Black Hills of South Dakota and the sagebrush steppe east of the Rockies. A combination of climate, grazing, and fire were ecological factors that influenced the development of the diverse landscape. To date, more than 1,500 species of plants like blue grama, sagebrush and coneflower; 300 species of birds, including the greater sage grouse, golden eagle and sandhill crane; and 220 species of butterfly have been recorded in this region. The Northern Great Plains harbors more than 90 species of mammals, including the American bison, the prairie dog and the black-footed ferret – the most endangered mammal in North America.
Rivers and Riparian Corridors – Rivers in the area function as ecological “magnets” and corridors not only for wildlife but also people as well. Rivers in the Plains and Prairie Pothole LCC are notorious for their extensive flooding, meandering channels, and for their ability to transport massive amounts of sediment. The upper Missouri River system and its major tributaries, such as the Yellowstone River, provide vital habitat for many threatened and endangered fish and wildlife species.