National grassland

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Map of national grasslands in the United States, depicted in yellow
Entrance sign of a United States National Grassland area in South Dakota

A national grassland is an area of protected and managed federal lands in the United States authorized by Title III of the Bankhead–Jones Farm Tenant Act of 1937. For administrative purposes, they are essentially identical to national forests, except that grasslands are areas primarily consisting of prairie. Like national forests, national grasslands may be open for hunting, grazing, mineral extraction, recreation and other uses. Various national grasslands are typically administered in conjunction with nearby national forests.

All but four national grasslands are on or at the edge of the Great Plains. Those four are in southeastern Idaho, northeastern California, central Oregon, and a reserve in Illinois. The three national grasslands in North Dakota, together with one in northwestern South Dakota, are administered jointly as the Dakota Prairie Grasslands. National grasslands are generally much smaller than national forests – while a typical national forest would be about 1,000,000 acres (400,000 ha), the average size of a national grassland is 191,914 acres (77,665 ha). The largest, the Little Missouri National Grassland in North Dakota, covers 1,028,784 acres (416,334 ha), which is approximately the median size of a national forest. As of September 30, 2007, the total area of all 20 national grasslands was 3,838,280 acres (1,553,300 ha).[1]

Soil Conservation Service[edit]

The catastrophic Dust Bowl of the 1930s led to the creation of the Soil Conservation Service in 1933. This and subsequent federal laws paved the way for establishing national grasslands.


Name Photo Location[2] Administered by Area[1] Description
Black Kettle Black Kettle National Grassland.jpg Oklahoma, Texas
35°41′01″N 99°45′47″W / 35.68361°N 99.76306°W / 35.68361; -99.76306 (Black Kettle)
Cibola National Forest 31,286 acres (126.6 km2) Black Kettle has sandy red slate hills as well as grassland and oak brush. There are three developed recreation areas, and the Washita River flows through the grassland.
Buffalo Gap Buffalogap Charon.jpg South Dakota
43°26′15″N 103°03′02″W / 43.43750°N 103.05056°W / 43.43750; -103.05056 (Buffalo Gap)
Nebraska National Forests 595,715 acres (2,410.8 km2) There are mixed prairie and badlands in Buffalo Gap as well as a reintroduced population of black-footed ferrets.
Butte Valley ButteValley twotrees.jpg California
41°53′57″N 122°01′31″W / 41.89917°N 122.02528°W / 41.89917; -122.02528 (Butte Valley)
Klamath National Forest 18,425 acres (74.6 km2) Formed July 1991, Butte Valley is the most recent National Grassland. It contains Meiss Lake and views of the Cascade Range.
Caddo Caddo NG red oak.jpg Texas
33°43′56″N 95°57′29″W / 33.73222°N 95.95806°W / 33.73222; -95.95806 (Caddo)
National Forests and Grasslands in Texas 17,873 acres (72.3 km2) Caddo is divided into two units and has two developed recreation areas around Lake Davy Crockett.
Cedar River Cedar River National Grassland.jpg North Dakota
45°57′19″N 101°48′24″W / 45.95528°N 101.80667°W / 45.95528; -101.80667 (Cedar River)
Dakota Prairie Grasslands 6,717 acres (27.2 km2) Cedar River is within the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and has rolling hills and ephemeral streams.
Cimarron Cimarron grassland.jpg Kansas
37°08′18″N 101°46′56″W / 37.13833°N 101.78222°W / 37.13833; -101.78222 (Cimarron)
Pike & San Isabel National Forests 108,176 acres (437.8 km2) Cimarron has shortgrass prairie with cottonwood groves along the Cimarron River.
Comanche Picture Canyon.jpg Colorado
37°20′12″N 103°04′26″W / 37.33667°N 103.07389°W / 37.33667; -103.07389 (Comanche)
Pike & San Isabel National Forests 443,081 acres (1,793.1 km2) There are not only prairies in Comanche, but also canyons, including Picture Canyon.
Crooked River Crooked River National Grassland.jpg Oregon
44°32′36″N 121°06′34″W / 44.54333°N 121.10944°W / 44.54333; -121.10944 (Crooked River)
Deschutes & Ochoco National Forests 112,357 acres (454.7 km2) Crooked River contains two National Wild and Scenic Rivers: the Deschutes and Crooked rivers.
Curlew Mule Deer Curlew.jpg Idaho
42°11′15″N 112°41′57″W / 42.18750°N 112.69917°W / 42.18750; -112.69917 (Curlew)
Caribou-Targhee National Forest 47,790 acres (193.4 km2) In southern Idaho, Curlew provides habitat for sage grouse while the Sweeten Pond area supports waterfowl and shorebirds.
Fort Pierre Fort Pierre Grassland pond.jpg South Dakota
44°08′27″N 100°16′45″W / 44.14083°N 100.27917°W / 44.14083; -100.27917 (Fort Pierre)
Nebraska National Forests 115,890 acres (469.0 km2) Located south of Pierre and Fort Pierre, South Dakota, The Fort Pierre grassland includes several ponds open to fishing and dispersed camping.
Grand River Grand River NG Lone Tree.jpg South Dakota
45°44′09″N 102°21′40″W / 45.73583°N 102.36111°W / 45.73583; -102.36111 (Grand River)
Dakota Prairie Grasslands 154,783 acres (626.4 km2) In addition to prairie, there are a variety of habitats in Grand River, including sand dunes, river bottoms, badlands, buttes, and sandstone outcroppings.
Kiowa Kiowa range unit 53.jpg New Mexico
36°10′00″N 104°10′02″W / 36.16667°N 104.16722°W / 36.16667; -104.16722 (Kiowa)
Cibola National Forest 137,131 acres (554.9 km2) Kiowa consists of two units in northeastern New Mexico and includes canyons along the Canadian River.
Little Missouri Little Missouri National Grasslands.jpg North Dakota
47°05′55″N 103°32′14″W / 47.09861°N 103.53722°W / 47.09861; -103.53722 (Little Missouri)
Dakota Prairie Grasslands 1,028,784 acres (4,163.3 km2) The largest National Grassland, Little Missouri includes badlands and short and long grass prairie.
Lyndon B. Johnson LBJ Grasslands Hillside.jpg Texas
33°20′56″N 97°39′32″W / 33.34889°N 97.65889°W / 33.34889; -97.65889 (NAME)
National Forests and Grasslands in Texas 20,309 acres (82.2 km2) Used primarily for recreation, Lyndon B. Johnson National Grassland has no fees and is located northwest of Fort Worth.
McClellan Creek Lake McClellan.jpg Texas
35°12′42″N 100°52′16″W / 35.21167°N 100.87111°W / 35.21167; -100.87111 (McClellan Creek)
Cibola National Forest 1,449 acres (5.9 km2) McClellan Creek National Grassland surrounds Lake McClellan, and nearly all of the grassland was burned in 2006.
Oglala Oglala National Grassland.jpg Nebraska
42°54′56″N 103°38′14″W / 42.91556°N 103.63722°W / 42.91556; -103.63722 (Oglala)
Nebraska National Forests 94,520 acres (382.5 km2) The badlands of Toadstool Geologic Park are within Oglala National Grassland.
Pawnee Pawnee Buttes2010.jpg Colorado
40°47′38″N 104°05′01″W / 40.79389°N 104.08361°W / 40.79389; -104.08361 (Pawnee)
Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests 193,060 acres (781.3 km2) Pawnee has camping at Crow Valley Recreation Area and trails to the Pawnee Buttes.
Rita Blanca Rita Blanca National Grassland.jpg Texas, Oklahoma
36°26′04″N 102°36′01″W / 36.43444°N 102.60028°W / 36.43444; -102.60028 (Rita Blanca)
Cibola National Forest 92,989 acres (376.3 km2) Rita Blanca includes grasslands, marshes, and woodlands and is located in the Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma.
Sheyenne Sheyenne National Grassland.jpg North Dakota
46°25′36″N 97°17′43″W / 46.42667°N 97.29528°W / 46.42667; -97.29528 (Sheyenne)
Dakota Prairie Grasslands 70,446 acres (285.1 km2) Sheyenne provides habitat for the largest population of greater prairie chickens in North Dakota as well as the Dakota skipper butterfly and western prairie fringed orchid.
Thunder Basin Thunder Basin National Grassland Douglas.jpg Wyoming
43°41′09″N 105°00′56″W / 43.68583°N 105.01556°W / 43.68583; -105.01556 (Thunder Basin)
Medicine Bow – Routt National Forest 547,499 acres (2,215.6 km2) Thunder Basin is located in the Powder River Basin between the Big Horn Mountains and the Black Hills.


The smaller, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie was created much later and east of the Mississippi River under a different Act, so is technically not a "National Grassland" but it is instead managed by the Forest Service like one, as a unique prairie resource.[3]

Name Photo Location[4] Date formed Area[1] Description
Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Midewin3.JPG Illinois
41°22′44″N 88°06′46″W / 41.37889°N 88.11278°W / 41.37889; -88.11278 (NAME)
1996 18,226 acres (73.8 km2) The only federally managed prairie east of the Mississippi River, Midewin is in the Central forest-grasslands transition ecoregion and was created when land was transferred to the U.S. Forest Service from the U.S. Army. It is open to non-motorized recreation. In 2015, a small research herd of American Bison were reintroduced to study the effect of this large prairie animal on tallgrass prairie regeneration.

See also[edit]

Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML


  1. ^ a b c "Land Areas of the National Forest System". U.S. Forest Service. January 2013. Retrieved December 21, 2012. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ "U.S. Board on Geographic Names". U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  3. ^ "The National Grasslands Story: About Us". Retrieved 2021-11-19.
  4. ^ "Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved December 22, 2012.

External links[edit]