Kansas Nature Convervancy

nsmn1.uh.edu

A trip to Northwest Kansas introduced my husband and me to a wildflower I hadn't seen before.  Our destination was the Smokey Valley Ranch, a working cattle ranch in Logan County.  Owned by the Kansas Nature Conservancy, the day-long visit began as a volunteer work session, as we helped remove invasive red cedars and clear old fence posts and barbed wire.  But it also turned into a wonderful learning experience as we observed the flora and fauna of the native shortgrass prairie that is protected there.

Prairie Invaders

Jun 5, 2013

A trip to the Red Hills southwest of Medicine Lodge, Kansas, can be an eye opener for both beautiful countryside and an invading horde of Eastern Red Cedars -- a good tree gone bad.  Red cedars have been a part of the history of the Great Plains from Texas to Canada, and were once controlled from over-population by natural wildfires.  But with the advent of civilization, fires have been controlled to the point that the tree is taking over grazing lands and disastrous results are being reported.  Reduced cattle forage, numbers of grassland birds (especially the prairie chicken), lesser numbers of other wildlife, and decreased stands of  wildflowers are a result of the forestation of the prairie.  One of the most serious side effects is the drain on water supplied from natural aquifers and annual rainfall.