The Only Organization Working Exclusively to Conserve and Restore

California's Native Grasslands

What is a Grassland? 

Here are some definitions and their sources

"Grasslands is really a misleading name for this dynamic, diverse, and critically important ecosystem. They should be called wildflowerlands in my opinion," says Pepperwood's Ecologist and CNGA Board Member Michelle Halbur, "because there is so much more going on – and grasses are wildflowers too! Just not the showy ones with petals." - From Pepperwood e-newsletter,  May 2023.

Learn more about grasslands: The Forest Beneath Our Feet, presented by Michelle Halbur at Pepperwood Preserve 

"Grassland means land on which the vegetation is dominated by grasses, grass-like plants, shrubs and forbs." USDA NRCS. Definitions and Guidance – Grassland Reserve Program (GRP). Accessed July 26, 2021.

"Land that has never been cultivated." (USDA Economic Research Service, Sep 1, 2011. “Do farm programs encourage native grassland losses?” Accessed July 26, 2021.

"Native prairie refers to the grass species that have existed in the area for thousands of years." What is Native Prairie? A Teacher Resource. Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan.

"Herbaceous and grass-dominated ecosystems are critical components of Earth's land surface... Examples of these “grassy” ecosystems are grasslands, shrublands, tundra, open tree savannas, and woodlands" (Wilcox et al. 2023).

"Native grasslands are “grasslands” where >50% of the vegetative ground cover is composed of indigenous species of grasses and forbs (species native to the area before European settlement), >50% of the number of species are native, and where the minimum standing vegetation ground cover, alive or dead, exceeds 10%." What is a native grassland? Benson 1996. Proc. Eleventh Ann. Conf. Grassld.Soc. NWS, 1996, pp. 92-96.

California’s relatively intact grasslands are reservoirs of biodiversity. Grassland birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, pollinators and other animals depend on the resources these plants and spaces provide.

  • Native grasslands support about 40% of California's total native plant species (Wigand 2007:55).
  • Over 300 species of native grasses are found in California. Grasses are an integral part of diverse habitats, ranging from cool, wet forests to hot, dry deserts.
  • An astounding 90% of California's rare plant species reside in grasslands (Skinner & Pavlik, 1994; Eviner, 2016).  
  • California's grasslands are home to 30% of species listed as threatened and endangered (CDFW 2022).
  •  Currently 73 grassland-associated species are listed by the state & federal Endangered Species Acts: 14 vertebrates and 59 plants, and 14 invertebrates, including 6 butterfly species. This count does not include unlisted native pollinators and other plants and animals experiencing sharp declines.

HabitatGrasslands are essential open habitats that provide necessary food and shelter for many birds, insects, and animals.

  • Agriculture, invasion by exotic species, development, and other human-related activities have reduced California native grasslands by 99%.

CNGA's Mission

To promote, preserve, and restore the diversity of California's native grasses and grassland ecosystems through education, advocacy, research, and stewardship.


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