Playa Country

Tuesday's at 6:44 pm CT during All Things Considered

Playa Country, a project of the Playa Lakes Joint Venture (www.pljv.org),  is a weekly radio show focusing on the wildlife, wetlands and prairies of the western Great Plains, and the people who manage them. On the show, we talk to conservation and wildlife experts, as well as farmers, ranchers and land managers, about topics such as removing invasive shrubs to provide more water and forage, grazing management, the impact of fire on the landscape, and the important role playa wetlands have in recharging the Ogallala aquifer.

Dustin Huntington/VIREO / National Audubon Society / audubon.org

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain on behalf of Canada. That treaty and the three that followed — with Japan, Russia and Mexico — form the cornerstones of our efforts to conserve migratory birds, like the Swainson’s Hawk.

Christopher L. Wood / allaboutbirds.org / Cornell University

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain on behalf of Canada. That treaty and the three that followed — with Japan, Russia and Mexico — form the cornerstones of our efforts to conserve migratory birds, like the Cassin’s Sparrow.

planetofbirds.com

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain on behalf of Canada. That treaty and the three that followed — with Japan, Russia and Mexico — form the cornerstones of our efforts to conserve migratory birds, like the Mountain Plover.

Stan Keiser/Audubon Photography Awards / audubon.org

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain on behalf of Canada. That treaty and the three that followed — with Japan, Russia and Mexico — form the cornerstones of our efforts to conserve migratory birds, like the Burrowing Owl.

2013, Gerhard Assenmacher / Boulder County Audubon Society

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain on behalf of Canada. That treaty and the three that followed — with Japan, Russia and Mexico — form the cornerstones of our efforts to conserve migratory birds, like the Lark Bunting.

www.blm.gov

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain on behalf of Canada. That treaty and the three that followed — with Japan, Russia and Mexico — form the cornerstones of our efforts to conserve migratory birds, like the Ferruginous Hawk.

Laura Erickson / Cornell University

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain on behalf of Canada. That treaty and the three that followed — with Japan, Russia and Mexico — form the cornerstones of our efforts to conserve migratory birds, like the Sandhill Crane.

Bird and habitat conservation organizations in 2016 will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first international treaty to extend protections to migratory birds.

USDA / NRCS

Today a playa-rehab success story. Eastern New Mexico rancher John Wood owns a 2,800-acre cow-calf operation about 40 miles north of Clovis. The land has a a 250-acre playa that was rehabbed with the help of The Nature Conservancy.

Texas Parks and Wildlife

A functioning playa provides water to recharge the aquifer. There's also a whole community of wetland plants and invertebrates that need the very shallow water found in a healthy playa. These plants and invertebrates provide food for migrating birds.

Dale Daniel

Many playas on federal grasslands in southeast Colorado, southwest Kansas, New Mexico and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles have pitted playas. There's a cooperative effort underway to rehab some of these playas.

What Is a Playa?

Feb 23, 2016

We grew up on the High Plains thinking of those occasionally muddy pasture depressions as "buffalo wallows," "rainwater basins" or "mud holes." Turns out, scientists are learning those playas play a significant role recharging aquifers such as the Ogallala.

John Conkin / Wildlife Habitat Canada (whc.org)

The North American Breeding Bird Survey is a cooperative effort between the United States and Canada. The bird survey is a long-term, large-scale, international avian monitoring program started in 1966 to track the status and trends of North America's birds.

How do scientists get the data they need to study birds? A lot of data is collected by volunteers, "citizen scientists," through bird surveys and bird banding. Bird banding is a universal and indispensable technique for studying the movement, survival and behavior of birds.

Nigel / Flickr Creative Commons

When America adopted the bald eagle as the national symbol in 1782, there may have been 100,000 nesting eagles. But the eagle population declined, in part due to pesticides. By 1963, with only 487 nesting pairs remaining, our national symbol was near extinction.

planetofbirds.com

eBird was launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. It helps bird-watchers keep records of observations. It's another example of citizen science. eBird aggregates millions of bird sightings, which is very useful for scientists studying the movement, survival and behavior of birds.

NATURE PHOTOGRAPHERS LTD./ALAMY

Clay Cooper signed the first Lesser Prairie-Chicken conservation plan in Texas, through the Natural Resources Conservation Service "Working Lands for Wildlife" partnership -- an agreement with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

McRoberts / USFWS

Healthy rangelands help the long-term sustainability of the landowner and the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. Practices that bolster the bird's habitat are also good for ranching, and can lead to improved rangeland health. NRCS provides technical and cost-assistance for grazing management programs under the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Rancher Grady Grissom discusses the lessons he's learned from deploying a deferred-rotation system of managed grazing on his 14,000-acre ranch. But he doesn't like the term "grazing system." He says you don't choose a "system." You graze toward a goal.

Scott Bauer / USDA, NRCS

Good grazing management is good for the livestock producer and for wildlife.  When grazing-land is healthy, cattle put on the weight, and birds benefit from healthy grassland. The key is designing a grazing system that fits a producer's climatic conditions, soils, topography and vegetation types.

USGS

Holyoke, CO, farmer Larry Haynes talks about putting land "to its best use." For decades he attempted to farm playas in his fields but said he "rarely" was able to harvest crops grown in those wetlands. He decided to forget attempting to farm the playas and instead renovate them and plant large plant buffers around them, thus putting the playas "to their best use" as wildlife habitat.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Deborah Clark and her husband Emory apply the principles of holistic ranch management, and they use managed intensive grazing on their stocker cattle operation on 14,000 acres in north-central Texas.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Shaw Family Farms produces 1,000 calves a year. The cows and those calves require lots of forage. A field under crop production has several playa lakes, and that often made farming the field a challenging proposition.

Edmund Garman / Flickr Creative Commons

Smith Center, KS, physician Joe Barnes is a hunter. He purchased farm land for hunting, and was disappointed the land looked so barren following harvest. He was consulted by Pheasants Forever Farm Bill biologist Tyson Seirer on ways Barnes and his tenant producer could make crop fields more hospitable for pheasant and quail at little additional expense.

Michael Pearce / kansas.com

Larry Haynes of Holyoke, CO, used to farm right through playa lakes in a field. He stopped that practice because in too many years, it was impossible to harvest crops that were flooded-out in the wetlands. He's a proponent of putting land to its best use. In his case, that meant developing those wetlands into wildlife habitat to benefit autumn and winter hunting.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Hunters and birders have more in common than might be assumed. Both support the conservation of wetlands and other bird habitat. Some people even identify themselves as both a hunter and a birder, as well as a conservationist. Yearly purchase of the Duck Stamp is an excellent way to actively support bird conservation.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp is the best kept secret in bird conservation. Buying the annual stamp is a simple, direct way for people to contribute to wetland and grassland conservation. This episode presents seven reasons to buy a stamp.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

If you think the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation stamp, the "Duck Stamp," is just for waterfowl hunters, think again! Whether you hunt, bird, photograph wildlife and scenery, collect stamps or conserve habitat, you'll want to purchase this stamp.

planetofbirds.com

Diane VanLandingham owns ranch land near LaJunta, CO, and has permitted bird counters with Bird Conservancy of the Rockies onto her land to survey bird species and count their populations.

Some landowners are wary of the motivations of technicians gathering bird data on their land. The more accurate data provided by the bird census program can benefit private landowners, who often shudder when there's talk a bird or animal might be listed as threatened or endangered because of land-use regulations such a listing can bring.

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