Photo: Grasshopper Sparrow
"A furtive bird of open grasslands, the Grasshopper Sparrow takes its name not only from its diet, but also from its insect-like song." Learn more about this and other birds at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds website. Photo courtesy of Steve Byland.
In The News
Ranchers, Our Best Hope for Bird Conservation
Conservation-minded ranchers — like Ted Alexander of Sun City, the recipient of the 2007 National Environmental Stewardship Award — are breathing new life into the Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition (KGLC).
“Ranchers are getting themselves organized, which is good,” said KGLC Coordinator Tim Christian. “They want to kick new life into this coalition. It all stems from the desire to bring producers to a higher level of management and improve conservation.”
The KGLC formed more than a decade ago by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), but the group had stagnated over time. That is, until 2005 when Alexander and a few fellow ranchers asked NRCS to hire a coordinator to revive the coalition, which they did.
The agency hired experienced coalition-builder Tim Christian, who helped create the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams (KAWS), and who, as an NRCS employee, helped secure funding for the KGLC 10 years ago.
The KGLC serves as the coordinating body for Kansas’ six local grazing associations. KGLC helps ranchers by providing opportunities to learn, a network of peers to learn from and improved communications, and by creating new local grazing groups. Four grazing associations operate within the PLJV boundaries: Comanche Pool Prairie Resource Foundation, Kansas Graziers Association, Smoky Hills Graziers and Post Rock Graziers.
Some of the ranch management issues KGLC is educating its members on include prescribed burning, removal of invasive woody vegetation, and managed grazing to keep grasslands healthy — all of which can benefit birds.
“There is a lot of genuine interest from ranchers in what they are doing for habitat and how they are impacting species at risk,” Christian said.
There are more than 53 million acres of grasslands within the PLJV boundary, making up 33 percent of the total area. In the Kansas portion of the JV, about 6 million acres, or 15 percent, are in grass. Much of these lands are used as pasture by private ranches. Providing education, incentives and opportunities for ranchers to manage their land in harmony with wildlife is a major strategy of KGLC, the PLJV and partners.
“Private ranches constitute some of the best remaining expanses of native prairie habitat in the PLJV region,” says PLJV Coordinator Mike Carter. “Keeping those ranchers in business is good for birds.”