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Public TV showcases conservation efforts to help at-risk wildlife

This American Land

By Ciji Taylor

TAL Web Feature

Public television series “This American Land” will feature NRCS conservation efforts in its third season.

2.	Through Working Lands for Wildlife, landowners are working to create habitat for the bog turtles,

Through Working Lands for Wildlife, landowners are working to create habitat for the bog turtles, one of the nation’s rarest.

3.	Watch “Prairie Chickens and Bog Turtles.�

 Watch “Prairie Chickens and Bog Turtles.”

Private landowners, who have voluntarily restored more than 3.5 million acres of habitat to help seven at-risk species, like the prairie chicken and bog turtle, will be highlighted by “This American Land.” This public television series will feature NRCS in its third episode released today in a segment called “Prairie Chickens and Bog Turtles.”

The episode will feature fifth-generation Kansas rancher, Roy Beeley, who has worked to help the lesser prairie chicken, an iconic bird of the southern Great Plains. Loss of habitat has caused the species to be proposed as a threatened species for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

By using conservation practices offered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, landowners like Beeley are able to enhance habitat for these animals while benefiting their own operation.

“Conservation gave Roy a way to improve habitat for the lesser prairie chicken while making his ranch more profitable,” said Josh Adelhardt, NRCS district conservationist in Greensburg, Kan.

Beeley implemented a grazing plan and removed Eastern red cedar trees from his rangeland, which over time will improve the habitat for the lesser prairie chicken and allow him to more efficiently use available acres of grass for his cattle to graze.

The Eastern red cedar is encroaching in vast areas, and it’s displacing or removing habitat for native grassland species like the lesser prairie chicken.

“This tree is a habitat that the chicken won’t use, but it does provide predators an extra advantage and may increase predation rates on the lesser prairie chicken,” said Christian Hagen, NRCS’ science adviser to the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative, an agency effort to restore habitat for the at-risk bird.

When the cedars are removed, it returns the prairie to its historic condition, he added.

Roy and hundreds of other producers have helped improve more than 920,000 acres of lesser prairie chicken habitat since 2010.

Working Lands for Wildlife helps shift endangered species conservation from regulatory to incentive-based voluntary actions. This new paradigm has evolved from the strong partnership between NRCS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and helps create habitat for other species, including the gopher tortoise, Southwest willow flycatcher, golden-winged warbler, greater and Gunnison sage grouse, New England cottontail and bog turtle. Farmers and ranchers who voluntarily maintain conservation practices that benefit these seven species may receive regulatory predictability for up to 30 years.

The episode also features the bog turtle, one of America’s smallest and rarest turtles. The bog turtle is often an indicator of water quality and healthy wetlands.

With more than 90 percent of the bog turtles’ habitat located on private lands in the Northeast, landowners are essential for their survival.

“These turtles are just one piece of the ecosystem puzzle, but it’s important to keep all those pieces together because we don’t know what will happen if one or more of those pieces disappear,” said Holly Niederriter, non-game wildlife biologist for Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife.

For more information on Working Lands for Wildlife, visit the Working Lands for Wildlife page or a local NRCS field office. Or for more information on the public television series, visit NRCS’ “This American Land” page.