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Grazing Coalition Active in Western Kansas

Grazing Coalition Active in Western Kansas

by Tim Christian, Executive Director
Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition
Hutchinson, Kansas

The Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition (KGLC) and its affiliated regional grazing groups (RGGs) have partnered with a variety of agencies and organizations to promote rangeland health and enhance wildlife habitat in the eastern half of Kansas. The KGLC, a Kansas non-profit organization, has a membership including individuals, groups, other non-profit organizations, and state and federal agencies. The vision of the KGLC is “regenerating Kansas grazing lands.” Its mission is “to regenerate Kansas grazing land resources through cooperative management, economics, ecology, production, education, and technical assistance programs.”

In early 2010, the KGLC met with representatives of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to discuss organizing a northwest Kansas regional grazing group to help promote technical assistance and programs that these two federal agencies offer to private landowners. Additionally, there will be assistance promoting grazing management and enhancing wildlife habitat on private lands. KGLC anticipates organizing this rancher group during the winter 2011.

The KGLC met with landowners in Finney and Kearny Counties in March 2010 to discuss the formation of an “Upper Ark River” regional grazing group. These landowners were especially interested in re-establishing native grasses on irrigated cropland for grazing purposes and to provide habitat for lesser prairie-chicken. Through the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative, it is hoped that a partnership can be developed between these private landowners, the KGLC, NRCS, USFWS, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP), the Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV), Fort Hays State University (FHSU) Biology Department, and other interested parties. This group plans to hold an organizational meeting this winter.

Also, last March the KGLC was invited to participate in a joint Meade-Clark Counties day-long “drought management” informational meeting. The meeting was hosted by the Meade and Clark County Conservation Districts, along with the NRCS and KGLC. The formation of a Meade-Clark Counties regional grazing group was discussed and determined to be feasible, and like the Upper Ark River group, plans are to organize officially this winter.

A major activity for KGLC and its partners was to host a Mid/Short-Grass Prairie Adult Range School on the grounds of Camp Lakeside adjacent to Scott County State Lake. The school was held July 6–8. There were fifteen participants including area ranchers and resource agency personnel. The school is a partnership effort including the PLJV, NRCS, USFWS, Kansas State University (KSU) Research and Extension, FHSU, Kansas Section Society for Range Management, and the Kansas Native Plant Society (KNPS). This year The Nature Conservancy (TNC)–Smoky Valley Ranch staff helped host and participate in the rangeland training program. NRCS and KSU Research and Extension personnel provided the bulk of the instruction along with the PLJV, TNC, KNPS, and FHSU Biology Department. The USFWS provided each participant with a copy of a Kansas wildflowers and grasses plant identification book, funded through their Partners for Fish and Wildlife program. Native rangeland plant identification (grasses and wildflowers), grazing management strategies, wildlife habitat enhancement, inventory and monitoring of rangeland annual production, along with livestock husbandry were major topics of instruction for the three-day school.

Late this past summer 2010, the KGLC partnered with the PLJV and the Kansas Prescribed Fire Council on a grant application to the National Wild Turkey Federation to provide prescribed burn equipment for local prescribed burn associations being organized in western Kansas counties. Some of these prescribed burn associations are in the Smoky Hills Graziers Association area, a KGLC regional grazing group, covering the counties of Russell, Jewell, Cloud, and Republic; others are still forming in the southwest and westcentral areas.

In south-central Kansas, the KGLC continues to provide assistance to the Comanche Pool Prairie Research Foundation and the Red Hills Prescribed Burn Association, both 501(c)(3) non-profits, and the Coalition looks to Ted Alexander and his son Brian who provide leadership to both the KGLC and their local organizations just mentioned. Ted just completed several terms as the chairman of the KGLC and was an original organizing member in the early 1990s. Brian just finished up a term as the chairman of the Kansas Prescribed Fire Council’s steering committee. The Comanche Pool is a strong regional grazing group and works closely with a number of organizations and agencies including the NRCS, USFWS, KDWP, PLJV, and others to benefit ranchers and the grazing lands in the Red Hills area of Kansas and Oklahoma. KGLC helped place a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill biologist in the Red Hills through a ConocoPhillips grant from the PLJV.

Major areas of interest this coming year for the regional grazing groups in the western half of Kansas will focus on drought management, the lesser prairie-chicken initiative, prescribed burning, invasive woody species (eastern red cedar in the uplands and salt cedar in riparian areas), and grazing management strategies.

In 2011, KGLC looks forward to assisting and providing help to strengthen the existing regional grazing groups as mentioned, and to possibly establishing another grazing group in extreme southwest Kansas.

Persons interested in grassland management or in organizing a regional grazing group are invited to contact the KGLC via our Web site, www.kglc.org, or contact Tim Christian, Coordinator, at 620-241-3636.

This article is also available in Microsoft Word format.

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