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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Ecoregions of
North Dakota
South Dakota

43. Northwestern Great Plains

43d. Forested Buttes Level IV Ecoregion


North Dakota Ecoregions

South Dakota Ecoregions

43a. Missouri Plateau

43b. Little Missouri Badlands

43c. River Breaks

43d. Forested Buttes

43e. Sagebrush Steppe

43f. Subhumid Pierre Shale Plains

43g. Semiarid Pierre Shale Plains

43h. White River Badlands

43i. Keya Paha Tablelands

43j. Moreau Prairie

43k. Dense Clay Prairie

  The Northwestern Great Plains ecoregion encompasses the Missouri Plateau section of the Great Plains. It is a semiarid rolling plain of shale, siltstone, and sandstone punctuated by occasional buttes and badlands. Native grasslands persist in areas of steep or broken topography, but they have been largely replaced by spring wheat and alfalfa over most of the ecoregion. Agriculture is limited by erratic precipitation patterns and limited opportunities for irrigation.
The Forested Buttes of northwestern South Dakota, outliers of more extensive buttes in Montana, stand 500 feet above the surrounding plains. On closer inspection, the seemingly flat-topped mesas offer a landscape of eroded knobs, hoodoos, and grassy toeslopes capped by ponderosa pine. The higher elevation, locally increased moisture, and variable aspects in the dissected topography are conducive to tree growth. Green ash, boxelder, snowberry, and upland juniper grow in the draws. Cattle, buffalo, mule deer, and antelope share the rangeland.


Area (square miles): 232

Elevation/Local Relief (feet): 3100-3650/250-550

Unglaciated. Prominent buttes with steep vertical sides. Source of spring and drainage headwaters.


Surficial Material and Bedrock
Sandstone with concretions and local quartzite (Arikaree Formation).


Order (Great Groups)
Entisols (Ustorthents), Alfisols (Eutroboralfs)

Common Soil Series
Cabba, Cabbart, Reva, Rockoa, Cohagen, rock outcrop

Temperature/Moisture Regimes


Precipitation - Mean annual (inches)

Frost Free - Mean annual (days)

Mean Temp. - Jan. min/max; July min/max, (°F)

Potential Natural Vegetation

Ponderosa pine, Rocky Mountain juniper, snowberry. Green ash in drainages. Little bluestem dominates the grasslands.

Land Use and Land Cover

Logging, grazing on National Forest land.

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