Playas dot the landscape throughout the PLJV region. Photo courtesy of Brian Slobe.
In The News
Playa Post - February 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
On February 2, the Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) launched its new website at pljv.org. The dramatically redesigned site embodies the joint venture's forward-thinking vision and commitment to providing information and tools for key audience groups — private landowners, wildlife and habitat managers, and industry — as well as information on bird and habitat conservation for the general public.
"The new website is easier to use, reflects the need for targeted tools and information, and provides increased flexibility for future growth," says PLJV Communication Director Misti Vazquez. "It will greatly improve our partners' experience and also help us build relationships with other important audiences."
The site's homepage welcomes visitors with a large beautiful photo of a regional bird — Northern Pintail, Blue-winged Teal, Lesser Prairie-Chicken, American Avocet or Bullock's Oriole — and a clean uncluttered design. From there, they can choose one of four sections, depending on their needs:
The site has a fresh feel, with bird photographs and descriptions highlighted on nearly every page. "We are very fortunate to be able to use Tom Grey's beautiful bird pictures, as well as landscape pictures by several other talented photographers," says Vazquez. "The photos make the website come alive and remind us of what we are all working to conserve."
PLJV also partnered with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to provide education about the featured birds. Each page that features a bird photograph also includes a short description about that bird with a link to the All About Birds website so visitors can learn more.
During its January meeting in Lubbock, Texas, the PLJV Management Board stepped up its commitment to playa and Lesser Prairie-Chicken conservation. The board reviewed the components of what will become a Playa Conservation Initiative. PLJV staff developed abstracts for 18 interrelated projects focused on addressing the current conservation challenges and taking advantage of available opportunities. The projects range from creating targeted decision support systems and collecting data on bird use of playas to developing playa research priorities and promoting ecosystem services provided by playas. The board, in a similar process, also discussed an exhaustive table of necessary actions — including research, decision support tools, outreach and communication, and other activities that protect, restore or create habitat — to drive Lesser Prairie-Chicken conservation.
"It is good to see the work the Joint Venture and its partners have done over the last decade in developing a foundation from which to launch new initiatives focusing on playas and Lesser Prairie-Chickens," says Ruben Cantu, a regional director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and chairman of the PLJV Management Board.
"With the challenges created by declining travel budgets, it was notable that we had 100 percent participation by the Management Board. In addition to the meeting being well attended, the board members were highly engaged in the topics," says Coordinator Mike Carter. "I was really pleased with the progress we made."
The next PLJV Management Board meeting will be held June 19 and 20 in Ruidoso, New Mexico, where more details on the Playa Conservation Initiative will be rolled out.
At the January meeting, the PLJV Management Board approved over $107,000 in ConocoPhillips grants in support of five conservation projects with more than $2.34 million of matching funds. The grants will support habitat conservation, outreach and research efforts in Colorado, Oklahoma and Kansas.
"ConocoPhillips continues to help the Joint Venture make a big difference with tangible habitat conservation projects. Such long-term commitments are rare these days," says Coordinator Mike Carter, "and we are pleased to see the PLJV ConocoPhillips Grant program continue into its 21st year."
The four habitat projects that were chosen will greatly improve or protect habitat by following many of the recommendations in the PLJV's Area Implementation Plans. The research project will further inform PLJV partners about landscape-level effects on playas, including accelerated sedimentation.
Kiowa Creek Natural Area, Colorado
"The Kiowa Creek project is a great example of habitat restoration work that involves the entire community. The public can see the results and get a better understanding of what it takes to restore habitat once it becomes degraded," says Christopher Rustay, PLJV Conservation Delivery Leader. "It is exciting to see such a large group of partners working together like this."
Moist Farms Revolving Lands Project, Colorado
Canadian River Cooperative Weed Management Area Restoration, Oklahoma
Prescribed Fire Council Education, Kansas
Evaluating Playa Impacts, Kansas
In January, the Colorado Renewables and Conservation Collaborative — which consists of 10 wind energy developers, five conservation groups, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and other stakeholders — launched the Southern Plains Wind & Wildlife Planner website to provide best management practices (BMPs) for 12 priority natural resources in the state. The tool is designed to help wind energy developers reduce potential impacts to wildlife and ecosystems during the planning and development of projects in eastern Colorado.
"Everybody sat around the table, rolled up their sleeves and really focused on how we can work together to develop wind power responsibly while protecting our wildlife," said Al Trujillo, Energy Specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. "We now have a sound basis for evaluating wind farm proposals that can help support development of this clean secure energy source."
"Collaborative efforts like this allow the conservation and wind development community help preserve existing habitat while furthering societal goals for the development of green energy, which also benefits the environment," says PLJV Coordinator Mike Carter.
One of the challenges in developing wind energy is deciding where to place the needed structures without negatively impacting the surrounding environment. Wind turbines and the transmission lines needed to deliver the electricity produced can affect wildlife — sometimes killing birds or bats, sometimes simply rendering habitat unsuitable for nesting.
Partners worked together to develop a science-based site selection and mitigation framework that can help guide the placement of renewable energy development facilities and the transmission of that energy so that wildlife resource concerns may be avoided, minimized or mitigated. The collaborative group reached consensus on a set of species and ecosystems that may be impacted by wind development and drafted best conservation practices for them. The final determination on which species and habitats to include was made based on whether a clear nexus could be demonstrated between renewable energy and the species or ecosystems of concern.
"Wind energy has provided a tremendous economic boost for rural communities across Colorado's eastern plains while helping save urban consumers millions of dollars through cost-stable power generation," says Craig Cox, Executive Director of Interwest Energy Alliance. "The collaborative's work will help make possible more wind energy development, creating an economic boost with new jobs throughout the state."
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission updated its renewable energy environmental rule by establishing a good faith expectation for use of the best management practices — meaning they should be used by industry during the course of developing and seeking approval of their projects.
After the best management practices were completed, PLJV created a website to serve the GIS data, maps and BMP documents. Visitors can view maps for each natural resource, select the ones that may affect a potential development site, and then download zipped files with all associated GIS data and the BMP for each selected resource.
"The website provides important information to wind developers by identifying what resources are important for conservation, where to locate potential project sites in relation to resources of conservation concern, and how to mitigate for potential impacts if avoidance is impractical," says Anne Bartuszevige, PLJV Conservation Science Director, who facilitated the website development and took the lead in writing the BMPs.
The Colorado Renewables and Conservation Collaborative was formed in August 2008, with the assistance of the American Wind-Wildlife Institute, to examine the possible negative environmental effects of renewable energy development and to assist the renewable energy industry in reaching its development and transmission goals, while preserving the prairie ecosystems in Colorado. For more information or to download the BMPs, visit www.pljv.org/windandwildlife.