Mark Hilliard of Hale County, Texas, says, "This is cotton country. It's rare to find a pristine playa lake." He bought the native grassland on which the playa sits from family members, then protected the playa and a grassland buffer with a permanent Wetlands Reserve Easement.
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.
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.
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.
Legislative action to revoke the Kansas Endangered Species Act and another bill to prevent landowners from locking their property indefinitely into conservation programs are firing up conservationists reported the Wichita Eagle.