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KGLC Promotes Grasslands Management through Education

Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition (KGLC) Promotes Grasslands Management through Education

Timothy Christian, State Coordinator
Hutchinson, Kansas

“During 2012, drought management during this extended severe-to-exceptional 2011-2012 drought period, balancing forage and grazing land resources, climate change, adaptive management, regional grazing groups, prescribed burning associations, smoke management, prescribed burn plans, grassland bird habitat, Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI), rangeland inventory and monitoring, plant identification; these topics were a part of the conversation and activities of the Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition (KGLC),” said Randy Small, Neodesha-area rancher and KGLC chairman.

“In mid-January 2012, the KGLC partnered with the Kansas Graziers Association (KGA) at its Winter Grazing Conference held in Emporia,” said Small. The conference sponsors were the Kansas Rural Center, Kansas Farmers Union, Kansas Center for Sustainable Ag and Alternative Crops, Flint Hills Resource Conservation and Development Council (RC&D), National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), in addition to KGA, KGLC, and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA). The informational program focused on the continuing drought conditions in most of the state of Kansas, and its impact on grazing land forage production, stocking rates, and grazing management decisions.

Small said that approximately 150 graziers and ranchers from around the state heard presentations on the “Kansas Climate Outlook” from Mary Knapp, Kansas State Climatologist; “Climate Impacts and Effects on Range Condition” by David Kraft, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Rangeland Management Specialist; “Pasture, Rangeland, Forage Crop Insurance” by Amy Roeder, RMA; “Planning for Drought: Why and How?” by Ted Alexander, Barber County rancher; Tonya Haigh, NDMC; and “Implementing a Drought Plan: Monitoring Forage, Establishing Trigger Dates, and Stocking Rates,” Dwayne Rice, NRCS Rangeland Management Specialist, and Alexander.

In early February, KGLC’s newly formed Comanche, Clark, and Meade Counties’ regional grazing group hosted an information meeting and lunch for about 72 area ranchers to hear David Kraft, NRCS, discuss “Drought-Affected Grazing Options.” The Clark County Conservation District partnered with KGLC, Comanche, Clark, and Meade Counties KSU Cooperative Research and Extension Service, Comanche and Meade County Conservation Districts, NRCS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT), and others in hosting the event.

In late February, Dr. Joel Brown, NRCS Rangeland Ecologist with the Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces, New Mexico, was invited to speak on “Managing Rangelands in a Changing Environment.” The KGLC hosted a one-day seminar at Camp Wood YMCA, Elmdale, with 63 people attending, and co-sponsored with the Comanche Pool Prairie Resource Foundation (CP) at Coldwater, Kansas, the next evening with almost 80 people attending. Dr. Brown presented a model of an “adaptive management” strategy that ranchers might want to consider to meet the needs of managing rangeland ecosystems with the effects of a changing climate.

“KGLC worked early in the year with the Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) and other partners to secure funding through a ConocoPhillips Grant for a state fire coordinator position to manage the activities and business of the Kansas Prescribed Fire Council (KS PFC),” said Tim Christian, KGLC state coordinator. As a result of a cooperative agreement with NRCS funding and a memorandum of understanding with the Kansas Forest Service (KFS), on July 1, 2012, a KFS employee, Jason Hartman, was named to the state fire coordinator position. Jason remains a KFS employee, but his primary duties will be to assist the KS PFC. Jason will work with KS PFC partners to ensure that prescribed fire remains a tool to help ranchers, other landowners, and natural resource professionals manage Kansas rangelands.

In the late spring 2012, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced a new round of grants for specific NRCS national priority areas within the United States where critical habitat has been identified for threatened and/or endangered wildlife called the 2012 Conservation Partners Grant, Christian said. One of these was the five-state area designated for the LPCI which includes parts of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, and about the western one-third of Kansas. The KGLC worked with the Comanche Pool Prairie Resource Foundation to submit a grant proposal to fund two fire specialist positions who will work with new and existing local prescribed burning associations in the Kansas portion of the LPCI area. Christian noted that this grant was just approved by NFWF in early November, so these fire specialists will be working with individual ranchers and other interested landowners to develop prescribed burn plans and properly conduct prescribed burns on rangeland to control potential wildfire fuel loads, control invasive woody species (eastern red cedar in particular), and improve lesser prairie-chicken habitat beginning in the next few months. This proposal was endorsed by the NRCS; USFWS; KDWPT; The Nature Conservancy (TNC); and the PLJV, he added.

KGLC and its partners held their annual three-day adult range schools in August. A tall grass prairie range school was held at Camp Wood YMCA Camp at Elmdale, July 31-August 2, and a mid-short grass prairie range school was held at Camp Lakeside, Scott Co. Lake and TNC’s Smoky Valley Ranch, WaKeeney, August 21-23, continued Christian. These annual range schools have become very popular and well-attended in recent years. Primary learning targets are rangeland plant identification, pasture and rangeland inventory and monitoring techniques, grazing management strategies, livestock forage needs, wildlife habitat considerations, and in the last few years drought management considerations. NRCS rangeland management specialists, Fort Hays State University range and biology department, and KSU Research and Extension specialists provide the bulk of the instruction, but other partners assist as well including USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program biologists, KDWPT biologists, TNC personnel, and PLJV staff, he said. Additionally, the agenda allows for ranchers to present as well so attendees gain a sense of real life ranching scenarios. This year local ranchers—John and Annie Wilson, Elmdale, and Bill Barby, Protection—shared their stories of ranching, and what they have experienced in managing their rangelands.

On September 18, the Comanche, Clark, and Meade Counties regional grazing group met once again. The group gathered on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grassland released for grazing by Nathan Shupe, Ashland, and listened to instructor Rice, Lincoln, Kansas, discuss forage production and estimating forage consumed and that still available for use by livestock. Those attending received “mid-shortgrass grazing sticks” developed for the mid-shortgrass area of Kansas, and learned how to use the grazing sticks as a tool to determine grazing use and measure existing grass for lesser prairie-chicken habitat.

In mid-October, KGLC held its annual meeting and fall tour in the Hays area, Christian said. The Board elected new officers for 2012-2014 with Small becoming chairman; Bill Edwards, Olsburg-area rancher, vice-chairman; and Barth Crouch, PLJV, continuing to serve as secretary-treasurer. The fall tour on focused on livestock and grazing research work being conducted on the Kansas State University Agricultural Research Center, just south of Hays with Keith Harmoney serving as host. Christian added that area rancher, Charlie Kraus, told about his operation focusing on his year-round grazing program and how he has worked to change his livestock herd genetics to match his grazing resources.

Ranchers active in the KGLC are often invited to speak to share their experiences with prescribed burns, grazing systems, wildlife habitat development, and activities of their regional grazing groups not only at local, area, and regional meetings as have been described, but at national meetings, too, Christian noted. In December 2012, Alexander, Barby, and new KGLC Chairman Small will travel to the Fifth National Grazing Lands Conference, Orlando, Florida, and present on drought planning and how regional grazing groups function. They will also highlight the KGLC Web site, www.kglc.org, as a highly touted educational resource for ranchers and others wanting to learn about grazing lands resources.

“The Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition and its participating ranchers and regional grazing groups continually strive to provide new experiences and opportunities to share grasslands information and education information to graziers and ranchers in the state of Kansas,” said Christian, “and, we hope to continue building on our efforts. A quickly approaching educational venue will be a series of one-day seminars featuring David Pratt in Ranching for Profit. These meetings will be held the week of March 18, 2013.” Check the KGLC web site for more details on these seminars or contact Christian at tdchristian@cox.net, or call 620-241-3636