Program offers additional incentive to conserve playa lakes

PRATT -- The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) has announced a new program that will add an additional incentive for landowners to enroll in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Wetland Restoration, Non-floodplain Initiative (CP23A). In 2004, President Bush announced a program that is directed to the restoration and conservation of small, isolated wetlands in western and central Kansas known as playa lakes. This program pays landowners to restore and conserve playa lakes much like the popular CRP program does with restoring cropland to native grass.

In addition to USDA's program, KDWP has developed a program that should make enrollment even more attractive. The Playa Lake Signup Incentive Program (PLSIP) offers an additional one-time payment of $15/acre for those landowners who enroll in the USDA program.

Playa lakes, sometimes referred to as buffalo wallows or lagoons, are naturally occurring depressions found in western Kansas and other parts of the Great Plains. In their natural state, playas possess the ability to hold water for extended periods of time. This enables playas to function as important stopover sites for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds as well as breeding grounds for numerous amphibians during the wet season.

Eric Johnson, Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) Coordinator for KDWP, says many USDA conservation programs such as CP23A are good not only for the producer but also for wildlife.

"Farmers can see the benefits of both removing these troublesome wet areas from agricultural production and increasing wildlife habitat in areas where open water is scarce," says Johnson.

It is estimated that before human settlement, more than 10,000 playa lakes were scattered throughout western Kansas. Since that time, many have been converted to agricultural land and have been degraded by increased sedimentation and fertilizer/pesticide runoff.

Tom Mulville, a landowner in Lane County who has enrolled 46 acres into the playa conservation program likes the program. "It's good for those areas that are hard to grow anything anyway," he adds, "and the buffer will help pheasants, too".

For more information on CP23A, contact your nearest USDA Service Center or contact a KDWP Landowner Incentive biologist: Chris Berens, KDWP LIP biologist in Colby at 785-462-3367; Mike Peterson, KDWP LIP biologist in Dodge City at 620-227-8609, or Eric Johnson, KDWP LIP coordinator in Pratt at 620-672-5911.

More information on playa lakes and playa lake programs can be found by visiting www.pljv.org and www.kaws.org on the internet.