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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Ecoregions of
North Dakota
South Dakota

43. Northwestern Great Plains

43e. Sagebrush Steppe 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 Sagebrush Steppe occurs on the dry western edge of North and South Dakota where rainfall rarely exceeds 14 inches per year. Eroded buttes, Hell Creek badlands, scoria (burnt coal) mounds, and salt pans punctuate a thick mat of shortgrass prairie and dusky gray sagebrush. The region is characterized by low human population, minimal cultivation, and relatively high concentrations of wildlife.


Area (square miles): 2457

Elevation/Local Relief (feet): 3000-3475/50-350

Unglaciated. Level to rolling plains with occasional buttes, badland formations, scoria (burnt coal) mounds and salt pans.


Surficial Material and Bedrock
Upper Cretaceous sandstone and shale (Hell Creek Formation and Pierre shale).


Order (Great Groups)
Aridisols (Natrargids), Inceptisols (Ustochrepts), Entisols (ustipsamments, Ustorthents), Mollisols (Natriborolls, Haploborolls)

Common Soil Series
Archin, Parchin, Twilight, Zeona, Bullock, Cabbart, Boxwell, Rhoades, Patent Maltese, Rhame, Dilts

Temperature/Moisture Regimes
Frigid/ustic (Aridic inter-grade)


Precipitation - Mean annual (inches)

Frost Free - Mean annual (days)

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

Potential Natural Vegetation

Dwarf sagebrush, big sagebrush, with western wheatgrass, green needlegass, blue grama, Sandberg bluegrass, and buffalograss.

Land Use and Land Cover

Cattle grazing and wildlife habitat. Grassland and shrub cover.

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