Playas dot the landscape throughout the PLJV region. Photo courtesy of Brian Slobe.
In The News
Playa Post - July 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
In June, PLJV completed a set of Playa Decision Support Tools (DSTs) for Kansas that are part of a larger Playa Decision Support System (DSS) being developed for the entire PLJV region. Using the best available spatial data and science on playa ecology, the Playa DSS is designed to prioritize individual playas according to their estimated ecological value and identify clusters of playas that likely have higher value functioning as a group.
"Our goal is to guide conservation toward and negative impacts away from the most ecologically valuable playas," explains PLJV Conservation Policy Director Barth Crouch. "The system prioritizes individual playas based on land-use activity, such as enrollment in Farm Bill programs or avoidance of playas when siting a wind farm. In Kansas, the partners decided to focus on wind energy development in this first phase."
"The Playa Decision Support System has the potential to be a very effective tool in assisting wind energy developers identify locations for Kansas wind farms while minimizing natural resource impacts," said Tracy Streeter, Kansas Water Office Director.
"As we continue to work with the wind and transmission industries in the state, the Playa DSTs will provide solid information to help direct siting of these projects away from playas," says The Nature Conservancy of Kansas Conservation Projects Coordinator Jim Hays. "This collaborative process has been all-inclusive, with beneficial input well received from all participants."
In October 2011, a Kansas working group was formed to provide input into the design of the Playa DST for wind energy development. The group included representatives from Clean Line Energy, Ducks Unlimited, EDP Renewables (Horizon Wind Energy), Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, Kansas State University, Kansas Water Office, Natural Resources Conservation Service, University of Kansas, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Nature Conservancy.
When completed, the Playa DSS will provide three integrated tools for each state in the PLJV region:
As Kansas completes the process for each land-use activity, the data layers and maps will be made available on both the PLJV website and on the Kansas Natural Resource Planner. The second phase, which will create DSTs to help in the planning and implementation of outreach for Farm Bill conservation programs, will begin soon.
“The Playa Decision Support System will assist us in identifying which wetlands in the PLJV region to focus our conservation and preservation efforts on,” says Eric B. Banks, Kansas State Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service and a member of the PLJV management board. “It will expand knowledge at the local and state level, expand opportunities for landowners, and help protect this vital resource.”
“The Nature Conservancy of Kansas appreciates the opportunity to play a part in this important work and looks forward to being involved with the next phase of the process,” adds Hays.
The Playa Decision Support System is intended for use by multiple stakeholder groups—including natural resource professionals, land managers and developers—providing them with spatially explicit data, maps, and written guidance that can inform decisions that may impact playas and their associated wildlife.
At the June meeting, outgoing board members Ruben Cantu, Dan Hunter and Keith Sexson were each presented with a beautiful pintail duck decoy as a special thank you for their participation on the PLJV Management Board. "This is an outstanding group of contributors totaling more than 18 years of service. We hate to see them go, but wish them well and thank them for a job well done," says Coordinator Mike Carter.
In June, Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) launched a new version of the successful Playa Country radio show and increased its listenership by placing it on more stations throughout the Playa Lakes and Rainwater Basin Joint Venture regions. Six years after its debut, Playa Country is still a highly effective tool for communicating with natural resource managers and private landowners who spend many hours in their trucks and tractors.
"The show focuses on the wildlife, wetlands and prairies of the western Great Plains, and the people who manage them," says PLJV Communication Director Misti Vazquez. "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, the impact of fire on the landscape, and how playas recharge the Ogallala aquifer."
Since approximately 95 percent of the land in the PLJV region is privately owned, landowners play an important role in managing the playas and grasslands that provide water, food and shelter for native and migrating birds. In an effort to reach this key audience and increase their awareness of the importance of playas in this semi-arid landscape, PLJV began producing the Playa Country radio show in 2006.
"In 2011, we decided to take some time off to evaluate our strategy and revamp the program," says Vazquez. "We conducted a survey to get feedback about which topics are of interest to our listeners and which stations they are listening to. We also talked with farm radio stations to find the best format to fit into their programming."
The new show is narrated by Robert Kirby, a radio producer with more than 20 years experience and an understanding of life on the plains—having grown up on a farm in western Kansas. In four and a half minutes each week, he weaves different voices and perspectives into stories that highlight the conservation challenges we're facing and, more importantly, how we can address them.
According to Vazquez, PLJV also took the opportunity to expand the show's listenership. "By partnering with Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, we were able to place Playa Country on KVRN in Lexington, Nebraska, and cover their region as well."
The Playa Country radio show can be heard Wednesdays at 11:20 a.m. on KFRM in Salina, Kansas; Wednesdays at 6:24 a.m. on KFYO in Lubbock, Texas; Saturdays at 7:44 a.m. on KVRN in Lexington, Nebraska; and Mondays during the 8:00 a.m. hour on KSIR in Fort Morgan, Colorado. It will also be airing soon on HPPR in Garden City, Kansas, and Amarillo, Texas; KENW in Portales, New Mexico; and KPAN in Hereford, Texas. Archived episodes can also be heard at www.pljv.org/news/playa-country.
At its June management board meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) was presented with an award for leadership in integrating habitat conservation across the bird initiatives. This year, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Migratory Bird Joint Ventures and in appreciation for their collaboration in landbird conservation, Partners in Flight presented awards to five habitat joint ventures, as well as Dan Ashe, Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
"Mike Carter has been instrumental in putting PLJV on the map and making it one of the most effective joint ventures in the nation," said Tammy VerCauteren, Executive Director of Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and a member of the PLJV management board. "On behalf of the Partners in Flight steering committee, I am honored to present this award to Mike and all the staff at PLJV."
"It was obvious to Mike long ago that we could, should and must approach conservation of all bird species together at a broad geographic scale," Partners in Flight Coordinator Terry Rich said about Mike's visionary leadership for PLJV. "He knew that you can't have everything everywhere, but that there is an optimal solution to be developed through the proper application of conservation design and all the strategic habitat conservation feedback loops."
According to Carter, the award is a testament to the efforts of the entire PLJV staff. "You have to have a great staff to back you up and make that vision a reality."
The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) Small Grants Program is accepting proposals for projects involving long-term protection, restoration, and/or enhancement of wetlands and associated uplands habitats that benefit migratory birds, primarily waterfowl. A one to one match of non-federal funds to the NAWCA request is required. For those interested in submitting an application, Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) can help by identifying priority birds, providing feedback on the overall proposed project, suggesting potential additional partners, and providing assistance in preparing the application.
PLJV reviews and ranks all proposed NAWCA projects within its boundaries. This year, grant applications must be submitted on or before October 25. If you are planning on submitting a proposal, please notify PLJV as soon as you are able and send us a copy of your draft application no later than September 20 if you would like assistance. Since there are some new procedures in place, we advise that applicants allow extra time in the process to ensure the proposal is properly submitted.
"This program is tailor-made for protecting or restoring small wetlands such as playas," says PLJV Conservation Delivery Leader Christopher Rustay. "We have a pretty good track record, with proposals from our area competing well on the national level. It may seem early to start a proposal, but the longer the preparation time, the higher the likelihood of success."
Last year, two proposals were funded in the PLJV area. A project submitted by the Kiowa County Economic Development Foundation continues riparian restoration in Eads, Colorado, building on a small NAWCA grant received two years ago. Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Kansas submitted the other successful proposal, which is helping to restore ‘borrow’ pits to moist soil units using ConocoPhillips dollars from a previous PLJV grant as match.
Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) recently said goodbye to GIS Director Megan McLachlan, who has been with the joint venture since 2007. "These past five years have been exciting, with was so much innovation in the field of GIS and habitat targeting work," says Coordinator Mike Carter. "Meg really upped PLJV’s profile in that regard and will be missed."
During her time here, she was instrumental in developing a number of important projects for the partnership, including designing and conducting an accuracy assessment of the PLJV landcover layer; developing the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Core and Core Buffer habitat model; conducting three Conservation Effects Assessment Projects regarding the impacts of the Conservation Reserve Program on priority bird species; initiating the Playa Decision Support System to help developers, land managers, and conservationists strategically plan where their efforts will have the greatest or least impact on playas; and working with partners to develop many other geospatial decision support tools. In her new position as the Regional Program Data Coordinator at the Bureau of Land Management in Denver, Megan will continue working on wildlife-related GIS projects, including one for another priority bird—the Greater Sage Grouse Initiative.
"Working with the Playa Lakes Joint Venture has been a wonderful experience—the staff is amazing and the work has been exciting and rewarding," says Megan. "I look forward to watching the PLJV partnership continue to thrive and wish everyone the best of luck with their conservation endeavors!"