Photo: Loggerhead Shrike
"A small gray, black, and white bird of open areas, the Loggerhead Shrike hardly appears to be a predator." Learn more about this and other birds at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds website. Photo courtesy of Tom Grey.
KSIR - Fort Morgan, Colorado
HPPR - Garden City, Kansas, and Amarillo, Texas
KFYO - Lubbock, Texas
KFRM - Salina, Kansas
KVRN - Lexington, Nebraska
KENW - Portales, New Mexico
KPAN - Hereford, Texas
In The News
Welcome to Playa Country
Playa Country is a weekly radio show where we discuss the wildlife, wetlands and prairies of the western Great Plains, and the people who manage them. On the show, we talk to conservation and wildlife experts, as well as farmers, ranchers and land managers, about topics such as removing invasive shrubs to provide more water and forage, grazing management, the impact of fire on the landscape, and the important role playa wetlands have in recharging the Ogallala aquifer. On this page, you can listen to current and past episodes, find more information about the topics, as well as a list of resources that may be helpful.
Listen to each series by clicking on an audio player below. To move to another episode, click the forward or backward arrow to the right or left while listening. You can also see descriptions of and select any past radio episodes to listen to and download.
Scientists researching the population declines of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken say the bird's habitat has been damaged by vertical structures and human activity like road-building and oil and gas mining. Vertical structures include mesquite and other woody invasives, which the bird is averse to nesting near. All of these features lead to habitat fragmentation. Learn more about efforts to link the habitat back together. Lesser Prairie-Chicken Resource Center >>
Much of the western Great Plains has been in a two-year drought, with parts of the region in exceptional drought. How do ranchers and range managers plan, operate, and protect their grasslands under these conditions? As communities struggle to deal with drought and declining water tables, a major, yet relatively unknown natural resource is playing a critical role in replenishing and protecting the region's water supply. Resources by state >>
Much of the High Plains region is under extreme or exceptional drought. Enrolling grassland in the NRCS Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative takes advantage of technical advice for deploying managed-grazing regimes to protect rangeland, both for cattle-grazing and Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitat. Good rangeland management during drought will enable the landscape to recover faster once "Mother Nature turns the spigot on again." Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative >>
A 21-county area of south central Nebraska is home to thousands of rainwater basins, which are identical in function to the playas of the southern plains, but formed by different natural forces. In addition, these basins hold water longer than the playas to the south, providing lush plant and invertebrate life for migratory birds on their way north to nest. Efforts are underway to work with landowners to guard these wetlands. Programs for landowners >>
More than half of western Great Plains farmers are near retirement age. Many are considering conservation easements as a way of protecting the land from development and subdivision long after they're gone. The federal government, through USDA programs, negotiate easements on land meeting conservation requirements. Other organizations, called Land Trusts, have been created specifically for contracting with landowners to protect land from future development. Land trusts >>
Playas are effective vectors for groundwater recharge and water filtration, but that assumes they're in a healthy state. Research indicates that a buffer surrounding a playa, consisting typically of native grasses and forbs, prevents migration of upland topsoil and farm chemicals into lowland wetlands. These buffers are important to rangeland playas, but are vital when playas are situated in fields under crop production. Playas are productive >>
As communities across the western Great Plains struggle to deal with drought and declining water tables, a major, yet relatively unknown natural resource is playing a critical role in replenishing and protecting the region's water supply. Scattered across the landscape are thousands of playas, the most numerous wetlands in the region. There are more than 80,000 in eastern New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming, western Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma, and the Texas Panhandle combined. Aquifer recharge >>
Much of the western Great Plains has been in a two-year drought, with parts of the region in exceptional drought. How do ranchers and range managers plan, operate, and protect their grasslands under these conditions? A strategic plan is essential. Early research on the effects of limited prescribed burning or "patch burning" to create a mosaic of patches across the landscape indicates better forage grasses and increased biodiversity. Resources by state >>
Western Great Plains rangelands are experiencing problems caused by the aggressive invasions of native and exotic shrubs such as Tamarisk, Russian Olive, Eastern Red Cedar and reeds. These pests adversely impact ag economics, the ecology, and native wildlife on the Plains. Phragmites is a growing problem in waterways and riparian areas, while Russian Olive and Eastern Red Cedar are invading uplands. Landowners have been controlling with mechanical removal followed by fire. Resources by state >>
Native Americans used fire to manage rangeland for thousands of years, but a 100-year burning hiatus followed European settlement of the North American heartland. Those decades of fire suppression allowed invasive plants to negatively alter the landscape. Now, rangeland researchers and managers are proponents of burning, when done safely and in a controlled setting. Prescribed burns follow a precise, multi-page "prescription" to ensure efficacy and safety. Resources by state >>