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.

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Playa Country Episode
5:54 am
Mon July 1, 2013

Lesser Prairie-Chicken's Aversion to Vertical Features

Credit okmag.com

Scientists researching the population declines of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken say the bird's habitat has been damaged by vertical structures and human activity like road-building and oil and gas mining. Vertical structures include mesquite and other woody invasives, which the bird is averse to nesting near.

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Playa Country Episode
7:10 am
Mon June 24, 2013

Managed Grazing During Times of Drought

As of early-2013, much of the High Plains region is under extreme or exceptional drought. Ungerer, Crouch and Hagen discuss the significance of enrolling grassland in the NRCS Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative.

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Playa Country Episode
6:32 am
Tue June 18, 2013

NRCS Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative at Work - Tom Turner's Story

Credit photofeather.wordpress.com

Land manager Tom Turner of St. John, KS, manages grazing land in west-central Kansas in the sandhills south of Kinsley. Owing to sandy soil composition the grassland is fragile.

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Play Country Episode
6:23 am
Tue June 18, 2013

2013 Farm Bill and NRCS Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative

Credit Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Parts of the 2013 Farm Bill remained unresolved, but sections concerning conservation programs - like the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative - were funded through FY2013 at the end of 2012.

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Playa Country episode
12:25 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

Farm Bill Status Update

Credit usnews.com

Playa Lakes Joint Venture's Policy Director Barth Crouch updates status of the 2013 Farm Bill. He says most ections of the legislation pertaining to conservation were funded through fiscal year 2013 in the so-called "fiscal cliff" negotiations at the end of 2012.

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Play Country Episode
8:01 pm
Sun May 26, 2013

Rainwater Basins, the Central Flyway and Migratory Birds

Credit wildfowlmag.com

Nebraska's rainwater basin region is beneath the Central Flyway, used by tens of millions of birds migrating to the prairie pothole regions of the Dakotas, Canada and beyond to nest and mate. Modern ag-production imperatives have reduced the number of basins.

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Playa Country Episode
8:01 pm
Sun May 19, 2013

Rainwater Basin Conservation: Landowner Story

Credit Chris Helzer / The Nature Conservancy

Laurel Badura, wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, found incentive funding allowing ag producer Bart Jacobson to renovate and conserve a rainwater basin on grassland that's grazed by cattle and sheep under aggressive management.

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Playa Country episode
8:01 pm
Mon May 13, 2013

Rainwater Basins and Playa Wetlands: What Are the Differences?

Credit Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

A 21-county area of south central Nebraska is home to thousands of rainwater basins. These basins are identical in function to the wetlands of the southern plains known as playas, but different forces formed rainwater basins and playas.

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Playa Country Episode
8:01 pm
Sun May 5, 2013

Conservation Easements: Preserving Ranching Heritage in Central Kansas Hill Country

Credit ks-mo-hunt.org

Chester Peterson, Jr., of Lindsborg, Kansas, owns grass and cropland on the western margin of the Flinthills, a rolling landscape of tall- and shortgrass prairie largely unchanged since settlers crossed it in the 1860s.

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Playa Country
1:12 pm
Tue April 30, 2013

Conservation Easements: Water Conservation in Northeast Colorado

Credit colorado open lands

When Denver physician and sportsman Kent Heyborne bought land in northeast Colorado, his intent was to leave it undeveloped as bird habitat. But working with Ducks Unlimited along the South Platte River, he created a water-conservation project resulting in neighboring farms gaining additional irrigation credits.

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Play Country Episode
12:23 pm
Tue April 30, 2013

Conservation Easements: USDA Farm Bill Programs

Credit forbes.com

Over its 80-year history, the federal government's Farm Bill program refined soil, water and habitat conservation programs. Along the way, its strategy changed from "let's see how many we can sign up" to a more focused  "best bang for the buck" approach to conservation, spending funds on projects to conserve fragile landscapes. This episode examines programs available from the Natural Rescources Conservation Service offering landowners monetary incentives to place qualified land under long-term or permanent conservation easements. This story is the third of a four-part series on easements. It originally aired April 30, 2013.

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Play Country Episode
8:01 pm
Mon April 15, 2013

Conservation Easements and Land Trust Organizations

Credit Ducks Unlimited

More than half of western Great Plains farmers are near retirement age. Many are considering conservation easements as a way of protecting the land from development and subdivision long after they're gone. The federal government, through USDA programs, negotiate easements on land meeting conservation requirements. Other organizations - Land Trusts - have been created specifically for contracting with landowners to quell future development rights to the land. This episode the functions of land trusts and what they're able to accomplish. This story is part one of a four-part series on Conservation Easements. It originally aired on HPPR April 16, 2013

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Play Country Episode
6:16 am
Tue April 9, 2013

Ogallala Aquifer Conservation: Kansas Water Laws Change

Credit NASA images by Robert Simmon, using Landsat data from the USGS Global Visualization Viewer

Kansas' water-rights laws had encouraged consumption rather than conservation of Ogallala Aquifer groundwater used by irrigators in the western part of the state. Gov. Sam Brownback talks about his initiative to change laws in the 2012 legislative session to encourage conservation and self-regulation among ag producers. This story is part two of a four-part series on Ogallala aquifer conservation which originally aired on HPPR 01/22/13.

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Playa Country episode
6:05 am
Tue April 9, 2013

Weaver Ranch Grazing Conservation

Shinnery Oak Leaf
Credit Max Licher

When Jim Weaver purchased his ranch in southeast New Mexico in the 1980s, some decades of mismanagement had left grassland overrun by shinnery, short shin-oak plants that impede grass growth by sequestering water in the root system. Weaver Ranch manager Willard Heck discusses benefits of limiting shin-oak to let the tall grasses return.

This Episode of Playa Country originally aired as part of the Grazing Management series on November 6, 2012. I was repeated April 9, 2013 as part of the Landowner Stories series.

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Playa Country episode
11:53 am
Tue April 2, 2013

Playa Renovation: Jan Minton Ranch Floyd, TX

Credit Oklahoma Conservation Commission

We examine Jan Minton's ranch, the family operation she took over in Floyd Co., Texas. It had been "farmed to death," she said, and two playa lakes were in poor condition. Bill Johnson, a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist, developed a restoration plan that involved silt removal, playa repair, and a native grass and forbs plant buffer around the playas' margins. This story is part two of a four-part series on playa health and originally aired on HPPR on February 19, 2013. The story was repeated April 2, 2013 as part of the Landowner Stories series.

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Playa Country Episode
8:01 pm
Mon March 25, 2013

Ogallala Aquifer Conservation: Playa renovation on the Grissom Ranch

Credit Playa Lakes Joint Venture

Southeast Colorado rancher Grady Grissom and Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory manager Seth Gallagher discuss renovation of a playa on the Grissom Ranch. The wetland had been "pitted," and a flat playa bottom was restored, which normalized plant-life, then birdlife, around the playa.

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Playa Country Episode
8:01 pm
Mon March 18, 2013

Landowner Restores Playa in New Mexico

Waterfowl and shorebirds on playa lake.
Credit Darryl Birkenfeld / Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism

Eastern New Mexico rancher John Wood has playa-rehab success story.  John 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. Wood says he's now witnessing larger numbers of migrating birds, and thinks other wildlife have returned. This story originally aired on HPPR 12/25/12 as part of Playa Country's series on Playas. It repeated 3/19/13 as part two of the Landowner series.

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Playa Country episode
8:01 pm
Mon March 11, 2013

Citizen Science: Bird Count

Credit audubon.org

The approach of Christmas foretells the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Biologists term the event "citizen science." It's an activity that allows laypeople to develop an interest in bird watching, and their efforts helping scientists conduct the census is invaluable - scientific organizations couldn't afford to pay for the vital data-collection performed by thousands of citizen scientists across the nation. This is the first in a four-part series on Land Owner stories. It originally aired on HPPR on Tuesday, March 12, 2013.

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Playa Country episode
8:01 pm
Sun March 3, 2013

Playa Renovation: Haynes Farm, Holyoke, CO

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. Biologist Jerry Miller drew up plans to renovate the playas and create plant buffers. As expensive as farming is today, Haynes says it makes no sense to pour expensive ag inputs into a mud hole. This the final episode in a four-part series on playa health. It originally aired on HPPR Tuesday, March 5, 2013.

Playa Country Episode
8:01 pm
Mon February 25, 2013

Playa Health: The Importance of Buffers

Credit Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory

Research indicates that a buffer surrounding a playa lake, consisting typically of native grasses and forbs, prevents migration of upland topsoil and farm chemicals into lowland wetlands such as playa lakes and rainwater basins. The buffers are important to rangeland playas, but are vital when playas are situated in fields under crop production. This story is part three of a four-part series on playa health. It originally aired on HPPR Tuesday, February 26, 2013.

Playa Country Episode
8:01 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

Playa Sedimentation: Causes and Fixes

Credit U.S. EPA

Playa lakes are effective vectors for groundwater recharge and water filtration, but that assumes they're in a healthy state.

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Playa Country Episode
1:12 pm
Tue January 8, 2013

Ogallala Aquifer Conservation

Credit sitename.com

The USDA promotes Ogallala Aquifer conservation with NRCS money for cost-share projects, and a significant report published by the National Academy of Sciences stresses the need to conserve groundwater, and the state of Kansas changes water-rights laws to foster a culture of conservation rather than consumption.

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Playa Country Episode
8:01 pm
Mon December 31, 2012

Providing Biodiversity in the Plains

Credit Texas Cooperative Extension

Scientists are increasing their understanding of how playas contribute to the landscape. They’ve learned these temporary lakes are a major source of aquifer recharge, but there's another aspect - the abundant bio-diversity playas create.

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Playa Country Episode
4:22 am
Tue December 18, 2012

Recharging the Ogallala Aquifer

Credit Texas Parks and Wildlife

We grew up on the High Plains thinking of those occasionally muddy pasture depressions as "buffalo wallows," "rainwater basins" or "mud holes."

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Playa Country Episode
8:01 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

Prescribed Burning: success stories

Prescribed Burn
Credit Kansas Pheasants & Quail Forever

Burning is a cost-effective method of controlling invasions of Eastern Red Cedar, but there's more to burning than simply touching torch to ground. Prescribed burns follow a precise, multi-page "prescription" to ensure efficacy and safety.

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Playa Country Episode
8:01 pm
Mon November 26, 2012

The Benefits of Burning

Prescribed Burning
Credit Heartland Conservation Services

Native Americans used fire to manage rangeland for thousands of years, but a 100-year burning hiatus followed settlement by Europeans of the North American heartland. Those decades of fire suppression allowed invasive plants to negatively alter the landscape.

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Playa Country episode
4:00 am
Mon October 29, 2012

Managing for drought on Playa Country

Grazing and drought

This week on Playa Country, we begin a three part series on grazing. Much of Playa Country has been in a two-year drought, and parts of the region are in exceptional drought. How do ranchers and range managers plan and operate and protect their grasslands under these conditions? A strategic plan is essential. Playa Country airs on Tuesday's at 6:44 pm during All Things Considered.

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Playa Country Episode
12:04 pm
Mon October 22, 2012

Final episode of Invasive Species on Playa Country

Eastern Red Cedar
Jim Mason

On Tuesday at 6:44 pm central time, we will hear the final episode of Invasive Species on Playa Country. This report covers woody shrub invasions and control efforts in Nebraska. Biologist Kirk Schroeder of Grand Island enumerates particular weeds invading Nebraska: phragmites is a growing problem in waterways and riparian land, Russian Olive and Eastern Red Cedar (ERC) are invading uplands. Tom Hartman of Grand Island manages the family ranch at Scotia, NE, and faced an onslaught of ERC. He and neighbors have been controlling with mechanical removal followed by fire.

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Playa Country Episode
12:01 pm
Mon October 15, 2012

Invasive Species series continues on Playa Country

Oklahoma Historical Society

The second in the three-part series on invasive species airs this week on Playa Country.  On Tuesday at 6:44 pm central time, Biologist Gene Miller describes the problem with invasives along the banks of the Canadian River in the Texas panhandle and western Oklahoma. He and NRCS rangeland manager Clint Rollins created the consortium the Canadian River Cooperative Weed Management Area, a group of agencies, non-governmental organizations and landowners conducting invasive weed control efforts.

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Playa Country Episode
11:20 am
Mon October 8, 2012

Playa Country returns to HPPR

Starting Tuesday evening during All Things Considered, Playa Country returns to the air. Playa Country features stories from experts in the fields of conservation, wild life management, farming, ranching and land management. All focused on the future of one of our area's most important resources, the Ogallala aquifer.

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