Feb. 16, 2012
$37,307 devoted to two Kansas projects
LUBBOCK, Texas — At a January meeting of the Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV), the group’s management board approved more than $107,000 in ConocoPhillips grants to support five conservation projects. The grants will support habitat conservation, outreach, and research efforts in Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

Two projects in Kansas will greatly improve or protect habitat by following many of the recommendations in the PLJV's Area Implementation Plans. The first is called Prescribed Fire Council Education. With a $25,000 grant, the Kansas Prescribed Fire Council will increase their educational activities regarding prescribed burning. Fire suppression has been proven to have a detrimental effect on grasslands in Kansas. Without controlled burning, invasive species such as eastern redcedar continue their rapid expansion — and removal of these invasive species by mechanical means has failed to make significant reductions. Since 2008, six local prescribed burning associations have organized in Kansas as a result of the Kansas Prescribed Fire Council’s efforts, but a major obstacle to prescribed burning has been the lack of affordable liability insurance. Additional outreach activities will help expand the statewide membership of the Council to meet statewide insurance underwriting requirements, which should increase prescribed burns conducted each year. This novel approach emulates a successful program pioneered in Oklahoma in 2011.

The second Kansas project is called Evaluating Playa Impacts. The University of Wisconsin will use a $12,705 grant to fund research in Kansas, examining the impacts of land use on playa function, as well as the effectiveness of grass buffers to mitigate these impacts. To evaluate these issues, soil cores will be collected from playas throughout western Kansas. Cores will be analyzed for a variety of properties, including color, particle size, organic matter content, bulk density, and magnetic susceptibility. This research takes a landscape-scale approach by using remote sensing/GIS techniques to assess catchment properties (water draining the land in the area). Catchment properties address a range of issues having an impact on playas, including implications for playas' abilities to provide wetland habitat, surface water storage, and groundwater recharge. The study will shed light on what buffers are most effective for playa function in northern portions of the Playa Lakes Joint Venture.

"ConocoPhillips continues to help the PLJV make a big difference with tangible habitat conservation projects such as these," said PLJV Coordinator Mike Carter. “Such long-term commitments are rare these days, and we are pleased to see the PLJV-ConocoPhillips Grant program continue into its 21st year."