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Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition Supports Ranchers

Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition Supports Ranchers in Grassland Management

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

“The Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition (KGLC) with its vision to regenerate Kansas grazing lands maintains an active presence statewide. In south central and western Kansas, drought management (including monitoring rainfall, grassland growing conditions, and grazing management) has been the top priority since the first of the year,” said Bill Sproul, Sedan-area rancher and KGLC Board chairman. The KGLC web site, www.kglc.org, has a variety of links to help ranchers get to helpful drought monitoring and planning sites on the Web.

“For several years, the KGLC has been involved in the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative by partnering with the Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT), and western Kansas ranchers and landowners,” he continued. KGLC staff and several board members participated in several Lesser Prairie-Chicken meetings during 2011. The KGLC is currently implementing a multi-year PLJV Capacity Grant to help inform and educate ranchers and other landowners on grazing management that will help regenerate western Kansas grazing lands and also provide valuable wildlife habitat for species such as the Lesser Prairie-Chicken.

KGLC implements its educational efforts through regional grazing groups, where organized, to focus on grassland issues that are “closer to home,” Sproul said. KGLC assisted with a range tour on August 4, 2011, at Meade County State Lake for ranchers in the Clark-Comanche-Meade County area. Tom Flowers, former NRCS district conservationist, and the Meade County Conservation District helped organize and host the event along with about a dozen commercial sponsors. KGLC board member Bill Barby, Protection-area rancher, also was instrumental in the event’s success. The Comanche Pool Prairie Resource Foundation and Smoky Hills Graziers Association are other regional grazing groups in the western part of the state currently assisted by the KGLC. Sproul noted KGLC was instrumental in getting a two-year grant in conjunction with Pheasants Forever to place a Farm Bill biologist in the Red Hills to help them meet their mission and to support grassland bird habitat improvement.

“In eastern Kansas, KGLC works with the Tallgrass Legacy Alliance in the Flint Hills along with the Kansas Graziers Association (KGA) and several grazing groups that they have helped initiate,” Sproul continued. “These partnerships all help further the vision of regenerating Kansas grazing lands.”

In the fall of 2011, KGLC entered into a cooperative agreement with the USFWS to administer the Kansas Partners for Fish and Wildlife (Partners) Program. KGLC assists landowners with the new USFWS funding application process and provides educational support for the Partners Program. Partners is a cost-share assistance program targeting USFWS priority areas in Kansas and is available to landowners and ranchers across the state.

In August 2011, the KGLC partnered with the KGA and Kansas Rural Center (KRC) in bringing Jim Gerrish, American Grazing Lands Services, LLC, and his “Management Intensive Grazing” program to three locations in western Kansas including Atwood, Hays, and Garden City. The KRC obtained a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Risk Management grant that funded the bulk of workshop expenses, and KGLC was a financial sponsor as well. Two additional workshop sessions were held by KRC/KGA at Emporia during Beef Empire Days and at Holton in northeast Kansas with the Jackson County Conservation District assisting for a total of five meetings held across the state with over 300 people attending.

The KGLC continues to host a Tallgrass Range School and a Mid-/Shortgrass Range School in partnership with the Kansas Section of the Society for Range Management , USDA-NRCS, Kansas State University (KSU) Research and Extension, USFWS, PLJV, KRC, Kansas Native Plant Society, Fort Hays State University, and KSU Hays Experiment Station. Both schools were held in mid- to late-August. The 2011 theme was “Looking Across the Fence—Grassland Watersheds.” Camp Lakeside, located at Scott County State Lake, was the site for the western school again this year with 17 participants. The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Smoky Valley Ranch staff also assisted with the western range school hosting a day-long tour of their ranching operation and TNC underwrote a steak fry for school participants. The eastern school was held at Camp Wood YMCA just south of Elmdale in Chase County with 33 participants. Topically, both schools include plant identification (grasses, native forbs, woody plants), rangeland inventory and monitoring, stocking rate determinations, grazing management options, and grassland wildlife considerations along with other range and pasture issues identified by attending students.

During the year, the KGLC has worked closely with the Kansas Prescribed Fire Council (KS PFC) in promoting prescribed fire training, equipment purchase for local prescribed burning associations, and education and awareness of the newly implemented Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan. KGLC helped organize the KS PFC in 2008 and assists with its coordination and financial support. The KS PFC just held its fourth annual meeting September 27 in Manhattan with over 30 attendees.

This past summer, KGLC successfully coordinated raising almost $13,000 from partners to develop and purchase three different “grazing sticks” for use by ranchers and other land managers across the state. The grazing sticks include a tallgrass prairie stick, a mid-to-shortgrass prairie stick, and a cool-season tame grass pasture stick. The sticks are simple monitoring tools designed using formulas and charts applicable to each of the grassland types for grazing management. They can also be used to measure Greater and Lesser Prairie-Chicken vegetative cover known as grassland habitat suitability.

The mission of the KGLC is “To regenerate Kansas grazing land resources through cooperative management, economics, ecology, production, education, and technical assistance programs.” This mission is what makes the KGLC a unique organization. It is the reason that KGLC partners with so many other organizations and groups for the common good of regenerating Kansas grazing lands. Visit KLGC web site at www.kglc.org or contact the KGLC state coordinator, Tim Christian, at tdchristian@cox.net or 620-241-3636.

This article is also available in Microsoft Word format.

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