From the prairies of the Great Plains to Montana’s sagebrush steppe and Appalachia’s forests, our nation’s working lands provide more than food and fiber—they give wildlife room to roam.

Focal Species

WLFW partners with private landowners to conserve large, intact landscapes for people and wildlife. We do that by focusing our efforts  on “umbrella species” that act as bellwethers for how their ecosystem is faring. Conservation investments on behalf of these species also benefit hundreds of other animals. Plus, they bolster agricultural producers and rural communities who rely on healthy rangelands or forests.

Sage Grouse

These quirky upland birds tell the tale of how the West’s vast sagebrush sea is faring.

As dawn paints the sagebrush pink, dozens of grey and white sage grouse strut their stuff in the cool spring air. Did you know these football-sized birds eat only sagebrush leaves during the winter? Meet the bird that birthed a new paradigm for landscape-scale, voluntary conservation. 

Lesser Prairie-Chicken

Along with their cousin the greater prairie-chicken, these prairie grouse need wide-open, intact grasslands to thrive.

These light brown birds seek out different kinds of grasses, shrubs, or wildflowers each season to provide food or cover. But they avoid trees at all costs since predators like raptors lurk amidst branches. Learn why the fate of prairie chickens is tied to conserving America’s dwindling Great Plains grasslands.

Migratory Big Game

Elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, and moose make bi-annual treks that weave between public and private land.

Did you know that private lands—most of them ranches—comprise one-third of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem? The regal big game animals that roam the range underpin a vast food web that includes bears, wolves, ravens, foxes, and eagles. Wyoming landowners are making travel easier for these charismatic critters.

Northern Bobwhite Quail

Saving this iconic quail also spells success for other at-risk birds that live in central and eastern grasslands and savannas.

Named for its sharp “bob-WHITE” whistle, this plump bird was popular with hunters (and diners!) before their numbers dropped drastically due to habitat loss. The northern bobwhite is divided into 22 sub-species. Both male and females may have multiple mates in a season and can produce up to 25 chicks each year.

Southwestern Willow Flycatcher

Although this songbird is a common summer resident near water in most of the U.S., it's endangered in the arid Southwest.

This small flycatcher uses streamside plants like willows to build nests and nab insects. In the desert where water is scarce, these olive-green migratory birds are an indicator of the health of riparian ecosystems. Cool fact: flycatchers hatch knowing their own songs rather than learning songs from their parents.

Gopher Tortoise

The only land tortoise native to the Southeast is a keystone species of longleaf pine savannas.

As its name implies, the gopher tortoise digs burrows up to 40 feet long to avoid heat or danger. These underground burrows are home to many other wildlife species, which all live in one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world—longleaf pine forests.

Golden-Winged Warbler

This vibrant songbird needs a healthy mix of young and old forests to breed in the upper Midwest and Appalachia.

A slim bird with golden flashes on its head and wings flits between shrubs in search of nutritious caterpillars. These bright warblers rely on large expanses of healthy forest that include diverse types of trees—both large and small—as well as open meadows and brushy areas. Come fall, they fly to Latin America to winter in open woodlands and shade-coffee plantations.

Monarch Butterfly

The familiar orange-and-black butterfly is known for its annual migration across North America.

Monarchs rely on nectar-rich native plants in the Midwest and southern Great Plains.  Specifically, they need milkweed to lay their eggs, as the caterpillars feed on it before metamorphosis. Adult butterflies gather energy from milkweed flowers to make their long journey between Mexico and Canada.

More Species

WLFW supports 14 state-based initiatives to conserve wildlife species along with our 8 national priorities.

From the tiny bog turtle in New England to the two-foot Eastern hellbender in Tennessee, local partners and agricultural landowners are working together to restore or maintain habitat for declining focal species. WLFW is active in 48 states, using Farm Bill funds to conserve dozens of different landscapes.