Playa Post
Volume 9 / Issue 6 / September 2011

New County Maps Show Playa Locations

Map of Probable Playas in Castro County, TexasWondering how many playas are in your backyard? Playa Lakes Joint Venture has released updated maps that pinpoint the locations of more than 75,000 playas in counties across the PLJV region. Land managers and landowners can use these maps to locate playas in a specific location and see how playas are distributed throughout their county. The new maps were created with Version 4 of the Probable Playas spatial data layer and are available for download as PDFs from the PLJV website.

Multiple sources of geographic data went into making the maps, including the National Wetlands Inventory (NWI), Soil Survey Geographic (SSURGO) database and satellite imagery. The wetland data were analyzed for each state where playas are found (Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas) to create the most comprehensive playa location maps possible using remote sources.

"Mapping playas can be problematic," says PLJV GIS Director Megan McLachlan. "Given the seasonal nature of playas, and that many have been lost to sedimentation, some playas may not be mapped or, conversely, mapped playas may not exist anymore."

Download the county playa maps from the PLJV website.

Funding Available for Conservation Efforts

The Playa Lakes Joint Venture announces the availability of funding for habitat, research and education/outreach projects through the ConocoPhillips Grant Program. Federal, state and NGO applicants are encouraged to apply and should submit proposals to their state representative by November 1, 2011.

Proposals should deal with priority birds, habitats, and/or issues in each of the three program areas. In general, habitat projects should provide measureable gain for priority species in priority habitats; outreach proposals should be linked to demonstrable habitat improvements; and research should address PLJV’s identified research priorities. A one to one match is required.

Past grants have included restoration of borrow pits at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, exploration of the effectiveness of playa buffers in Texas and the broader region, and support for background work needed to develop a state-wide prescribed burn alliance in Oklahoma. Other projects have used these funds, once granted, as non-federal match for small and standard North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants.

"ConocoPhillips not only brings more dollars to conservation projects throughout our six-state region, it also provides much-needed nonfederal match and additional partners, both of which are necessary when applying for other grants," says Ruben Cantu, Wildlife Division Regional Director for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the chairman of PLJV’s Management Board. "For example, in the past two years, ConocoPhillips funds have helped PLJV partners obtain five NAWCA grants, which are putting $4.5 million into habitat conservation for birds."

For the past 20 years, ConocoPhillips has worked in close cooperation with PLJV and has contributed greatly to conservation programs throughout the region. During this time, ConocoPhillips has contributed over $2 million to help fund more than 250 conservation projects through an annual, competitive matching grant program administered by the PLJV. That $2 million has been leveraged more than three-fold by JV partners, providing a significant boost to local conservation efforts.

The ConocoPhillips grants for 2012 will be announced in early February.

For more information about the grant program or to download proposal instructions, visit the ConocoPhillips Grant Program on the PLJV website or contact Christopher Rustay at (505) 243-0737.

The deadline to submit proposals for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) Small Grants Program is October 27, 2011. If you are working on a project, it may not be too late to submit it—and Playa Lakes Joint Venture can help by determining the value of the project to birds in the area and directing applicants to planning tools.

NAWCA Small Grants can help fund small-scale wetlands projects anywhere within the PLJV boundaries, with up to $75,000 in matching funds available per project. In the past, these grants have been used to fund a variety of conservation practices—from acquisitions such as a 6,000-acre ranch conservation easement with 48 acres of playas in Colorado to projects like restoring 173 acres of the 243-acre Slate Creek wetland complex in Sumner County, Kansas.

Proposals should show a benefit to waterfowl and at least a one to one match of non-federal funds or in-kind contributions to the NAWCA request. It also helps to have more than one or two partners contributing match to the project.

"Often partners are unsure of what makes a good proposal," said PLJV Conservation Delivery Leader Christopher Rustay. "Projects that purchase wetlands (either fee-title or easement costs) and restoration projects have fared very well, even with the increased competition in the past few years. Generally, if a project has good wetland conservation value, brings partners together and contributes to conservation plans, the project will rank well."

The NAWCA national staff relies on Joint Ventures to rank and evaluate grant proposals, so it is essential that applicants work with the PLJV as they are preparing their proposal. The PLJV has developed a NAWCA Small Grant Checklist to help applicants stay on top of proposal requirements.

For more information, contact Christopher Rustay at (505) 243-0737.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Great Lakes Climate Working Group compiled a list of climate funding opportunities. This document provides a snapshot of national and regional climate-related funding opportunities that are currently available.

Download the Climate Funding Opportunities document from the Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative website.

Additional SAFE Acres Available in Colorado and Texas

SAFE Enrollment mapIn August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the reallocation of 45,000 acres to the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program to support conservation and restoration of important habitat for Lesser Prairie-Chicken in Colorado and Texas. SAFE is currently capped at 850,000 acres nationally, with acres allocated across 90 projects located in 35 states and Puerto Rico.

Conservation practices currently offered under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) are fine-tuned through SAFE to improve, connect or create higher-quality habitat to promote healthier ecosystems in areas identified as essential to effective management of high priority species.

As of October 1, there will be about 33,500 acres available through the Texas Mixed Grass SAFE in the Texas Panhandle and approximately 11,600 acres available through the Colorado Lesser Prairie-Chicken SAFE in eastern Colorado.

SAFE is implemented through a continuous CRP signup that allows USDA to accept producer offers year-round, provided the land and producer meet certain eligibility requirements. Producers within an approved SAFE area can submit offers to voluntarily enroll acres in a CRP contract for 10 to 15 years. In exchange, producers receive annual CRP rental payments, incentives and cost-share assistance to establish habitat-enhancing natural covers on eligible land.

The SAFE acres available for enrollment in Colorado and Texas are intended to reconnect geographically and reproductively isolated populations of Lesser Prairie-Chickens by creating native mixed grass prairie and travel corridors. Restoration efforts will also improve water quality and quantity contributed to recharging the Ogallala Aquifer. Habitat management such as prescribed burning, interseeding, or managed haying or grazing will be critical in maintaining the quality and usability of this habitat.

Recently, the number of acres enrolled through the SAFE initiative nation-wide passed the 500,000 mark (see map for the location of the enrolled acres). Since the inception of SAFE in 2007 and the first signups in March 2008, more than 16,400 agricultural owners and operators have offered over 750,000 acres to SAFE. 

"This may be the real future of CRP," says PLJV Conservation Director Barth Crouch, "targeted practices aimed at fixing specific natural resource issues for wildlife or water supplies."

For additional SAFE project area details or to voluntarily enroll acres, contact your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) service center or visit the FSA website.

Report Shows Sedimentation Significantly Impacts Wetlands

Sediment of Nebraska's Playa Wetlands reportA new report, Sedimentation of Nebraska’s Playa Wetlands, provides recommendations on how to assess the impacts of sedimentation and restore these important wetlands. The report—authored by Ted LaGrange and Randy Stutheit from Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC), Michael Gilbert from the US Army Corps of Engineers, and Dan Shurtliff and Michael Whited from the Natural Resources Conservation Service—was initiated to provide current information about sedimentation and its effects on playa wetlands.

"Many depressional wetlands, such as Nebraska's playas, are now embedded in agricultural landscapes where tillage of their watershed leads to increased surface runoff and sediment inputs relative to a grassland condition," says LaGrange, NGPC Wetland Program Manager. "Eroded sediment from culturally accelerated sources can greatly shorten the life of playa wetlands."

The report discusses the historic functions of playas, alterations of playas due to sedimentation, effects of sedimentation on playa ecology and function, and restoration options for playas. Key conclusions include:

  • Sedimentation of playas in Nebraska due to human activities has increased, resulting in a majority of playas being impacted by sedimentation.
  • Some playas have been eliminated by sedimentation.
  • Sedimentation has negative impacts on wetland hydroperiod, vegetation, bio-geochemical cycling, invertebrates, and wildlife.
For more information, download the full report or contact Ted LaGrange at 402-471-5436.
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