Date of this Version
Great Plains Research 20 (Spring 2010): 85-107
Mongolia and North America contain expansive grassland ecosystems that remain sparsely populated, dominated by agriculture, and support relatively isolated human communities dependent on natural resources. Until recently Mongolians raised livestock using extensive pastoralism without seriously threatening most of the region’s biodiversity. Yet that changed rapidly following the recent transition from a communist, command-control economy to a democratic, free-market economy. The main challenges to protecting biodiversity on grasslands in Mongolia include overgrazing, poaching, mining, and inadequate management, training, and resources. Mongolia and the Great Plains both retain great opportunities for biodiversity conservation that could also benefit local people. Mongolia has begun embracing nature-based tourism as a means of providing additional jobs and enhanced livelihoods to local communities on its steppe grasslands. Nature-based tourism development in Mongolia may provide a model for conserving biodiversity in the Great Plains. Similar developments are beginning in the Great Plains but have focused primarily on big game hunting and dude ranches. Expanding the model in the Great Plains to include Native American cultures and wildlife viewing may offer alternatives that help restore biodiversity and enhance livelihoods.