playa renovation

Playa Renovation: Haynes Farm, Holyoke, CO

Dec 22, 2015
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.

Courtesy Ben Wheeler/Pheasants Forever and Nebraska Game & Parks Commission

Dave Hilfterty grows dryland winter wheat and irrigated corn in Perkins County, Nebraska. Dave had a challenge that was perfect for Wetlands Reserve Program assistance. Amongst his five irrigation circles there's a lagoon, which he got tired of trying to farm through.

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.

Dale Daniel

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. But when a playa has a pit, it is like "pulling the drain in a bathtub" and it no longer holds water very well. Rehabilitating playas by filling pits restores natural function to those wetlands.

Dale Daniel

Playas are those big ponds you see dotting across the High Plains.  They provide habitat for amphibians and points for aquifer recharge.  A study from Oklahoma State University suggests the Federal Conservation Reserve Program does have a positive impact on the health of the playas, but does not restore them reported The Environmental Monitor.

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.