WASHINGTON — Cargill, McDonald’s and the Walmart Foundation announced on Sept. 22 a $6 million collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to improve the grasslands of the Northern Great Plains.

The Ranch Systems and Viability Planning (RSVP) network plans to support ranchers across that region but focusing mostly on Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota. The initiative will provide technical expertise, training and tools to help advance grazing practices.

The companies and the WWF plan to manage 1 million acres over five years and avoid conversion. According to Cargill, this effort will result in increased carbon storage and sequestration, improved water infiltration, and better biodiversity outcomes.

“Ranchers are the most important stewards of the grasslands of the Northern Great Plains,” said Martha Kauffman, managing director of WWF’s Northern Great Plains program. “As managers of over 70% of the remaining intact grasslands within this region, they hold the keys to its future. The RSVP network will support ranching partners in planning and improving the resiliency of their operations, so they continue to provide habitat for wildlife, store carbon, filter clean water, produce nutritious food and support communities for generations to come.”

As part of the initiative, WWF plans to work with ranchers on private and tribal lands to provide extension services in one-on-one and group workshops. The program will offer ongoing technical expertise while delivering cost share and monitoring to help ranchers design, document and implement plans. 

Cargill said this program is part of its own BeefUp Sustainability initiative, which seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the company’s beef supply chain by 30 percent by 2030.

“We believe beef cattle can be a force for good, and one of the ways we can address some of our shared challenges by preserving wildlife and drawing down carbon,” said Heather Tansey, sustainability lead for Cargill’s protein and animal nutrition and health businesses. “This initiative is a testament to that. I’m inspired by the efforts of ranchers who live this belief each day, and grateful for our partners who join us lending scale, resources and experience to advance realistic solutions that address climate change.”

Walmart and McDonald’s also said the collaboration was part of their companies’ overall sustainability plans for the future.