Songbirds, upland game, species at risk benefit from group's efforts

The Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) has announced that Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition (KGLC) member Ted Alexander of Sun City was recently honored with the 2007 National Environmental Stewardship Award. The award was good news for KGLC.

KGLC was formed more than a decade ago by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), but the group had stagnated until two years ago, when Alexander and a few fellow ranchers asked NRCS to hire a coordinator to revive the coalition. The agency hired coalition-builder Tim Christian, who helped create and serves as coordinator for the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams (KAWS). Ten years ago, Christian, as an NRCS employee, also helped secure funding for the KGLC.

“Ranchers are getting organized, which is good,” said 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.”

KGLC serves as the coordinating body for Kansas’ six local grazing associations. The organization helps ranchers by providing opportunities to learn conservation techniques, improve communications, and create new local grazing groups. For example, four grazing associations operate within the PLJV boundaries: Comanche Pool, Kansas Graziers Association, Smoky Hills Graziers, and Post Rock Graziers.

Ranch management issues KGLC focuses on include prescribed burning, removal of invasive woody vegetation, and managed grazing to keep grasslands healthy -- all of which benefit native songbirds, upland game, and species at risk.

“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 boundaries, making up 33 percent of the total area. In Kansas, about 6 million acres of this area 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 goal of KGLC.

“Private ranches constitute some of the best remaining expanses of native prairie habitat in the PLJV region,” said PLJV coordinator Mike Carter. “Keeping those ranchers in business is good for birds.”
For more information on KGLC, write Tim Christian, 421 W. Ave C, McPherson, KS 67460; phone 620-241-6921; or email