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Why I Conserve Playas

Watch these videos to learn why agricultural producers in western Kansas are restoring and preserving their playas. Each video features a farmer or rancher talking about the benefits they receive by enrolling their playas in conservation programs—from financial returns, hunting habitat, and groundwater recharge to preserving history and leaving a legacy for future generations.

Playas Work for Kansas: From Dust to Ducks

Vance and Louise Ehmke are fourth generation farmers in Lane County, Kansas. They have 50-60 playas on their land and have enrolled a number of them in USDA conservation programs. “Without a doubt, I think we're better off not farming these playa lakes, because we have a very high incidence of crop failure — either it's too dry to get your crop up, or once you do get it up it floods out. But beyond that, I think they have a lot of advantage in terms of providing aesthetic breaks and diversity. It's really a lot of fun when you do have these big rainfall events, and the playas are full within 12 hours; you can literally go from dust to ducks overnight.”

Playas Work for Kansas: Putting Money in My Pocket

Andy Hineman is a dryland farmer in Lane County, Kansas. He is focused on increasing the efficiency of his operation, which includes taking many of his playas out of production and enrolling them in a conservation program. “In our combines we've got yield mapping capabilities, so it's easy to look at each field that has playas. It's pretty evident those are a big fat zero on most of the years compared to the rest of the field. It makes it pretty easy to decide to enroll it into a program that's going to be beneficial for the environment and wildlife — and put money back in my pocket.”

Playas Work for Kansas: All Sorts of Wildlife

Moe Linden farms and runs cattle in Lane County, Kansas. He has a playa, about 40 acres in size, that he manages for wildlife habitat and hunting. “A playa is hard to farm. You might get one out of six years where you could grow a good crop, but the clay soil in the bottom is kind of prohibitive to farming it. So I think it's a waste of time to farm them; might as well do something else. The playa attracts all sorts of wildlife — from upland wildlife to the deer and antelope. We get cranes, we get ducks, we get geese coming in there. Everything frequents that place.”

Playas Work for Kansas: Making a Difference for Future Generations

Ray Smith and his daughter, Alicia Allen, are dryland farmers in Wallace and Greeley counties. Half of their playas are enrolled in a conservation program, with the largest one protected under a perpetual wetland reserve easement. “Stewardship is a core value of our farm; we consider how our daily decisions will affect future generations and the environment. The ability of the playas to recharge the aquifer, even though it might be a small effect, is a big deal to us. Conservation is important to us now because we know that it will affect future generations, and it will affect wildlife and the the whole environment.”

Playas Work for Kansas: Water for Communities

Tony Winter has farmed near Leoti, Kansas, most of his life and participates in the Wichita County Water Conservation Area (WCA). The group’s goal is to reduce water use and provide a sustainable future for the town of Leoti. “I see water as the main issue for survival of Leoti. Water keeps our local economy going. We have to preserve our water or there won't be future generations out here. Playas definitely play a role in extending the aquifer. We’re voluntarily reducing our water usage and the playa program is another great way to prolong our water table.”

Playas Work for Kansas: Leaving a Legacy

Mark Smith has farmed and run cattle in Wallace County, Kansas, for many years. He believes preserving his playas strengthens his operation, preserves history, and leaves a legacy for future generations. “These playas have been a great source of water and wildlife for people for thousands of years. And it just makes sense to put them in a program, to protect that. We need to restore these playas so they can actually have the drying, the cracking, letting in the water for the recharge, have all the wildlife. I want to be able to leave a legacy, that I took care of this land and I left it better than I received it.”

More information on Playas: Playas Work for Kansas