Grazing Management on the Weaver Ranch

Jim Weaver

When Jim Weaver purchased his ranch in southeast New Mexico in the 1980s, decades of mismanagement had left the grasslands overrun by shinnery, short shin-oak plants that impede grass growth by sequestering water in the root system. Weaver Ranch Manager Willard Heck discusses benefits of limiting shin-oak to let the tall grasses return.

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Citizen Science: Christmas Bird Counts

The approach of Christmas foretells the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, held in various locations between December 14 and January 5. It’s an activity that allows laypeople to develop an interest in bird watching, while their help in conducting the census is invaluable. Scientific organizations couldn’t afford to pay for the vital data-collection performed by thousands of “citizen scientists” across the nation.

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Ensuring the Future Through Education

It’s all about educating people about the care and preservation of the Ogallala Aquifer. Science now understands that the more than 75,000 playa lakes on the High Plains recharge the aquifer. So maintaining playas is vital. Federal farm policy helps achieve that. Money to cost-share conservation projects is available from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Money also is available to take wetlands, such as playas, out of production.

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Playa Restoration on Grissom Ranch

Southeast Colorado rancher Grady Grissom received help to restore one of his playas, which had been pitted. After the pit was filled and a perimeter of native grass seeded, playa vegetation returned — and so did the birds.

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Kansas Water Laws Change

Ogallala Aquifer draw-down exceeds recharge, especially in the southern High Plains states of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. In 2012, the state of Kansas changed its water-rights policies to encourage water conservation and self-regulation among ag producers in the state.

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Ogallala Aquifer Conservation

A significant report published by the National Academy of Sciences says if current trends continue, “35 percent of the southern High Plains will be unable to support irrigation within the next 30 years.” There are some bright spots: science now understands that playa lakes are a significant source of water that recharges aquifers; the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is spending money with ag producers and landowners to fund water conservation projects; state agencies like the Texas Water Development Board are helping producers conserve water; and at least one state, Kansas, has changed water-rights laws in order to change behaviors.

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Managing for Drought

Much of the western Great Plains has been in a two-year drought, with parts of the region in exceptional drought. How do ranchers and range managers plan, operate, and protect their grasslands under these conditions? A strategic plan is essential.

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Controlling Invasives in Oklahoma and Texas

Invasive shrubs have taken over the banks of the Canadian River in the Texas panhandle and western Oklahoma. The problem is so big, and controlling these weeds is so expensive, it takes a consortium of government agencies, nonprofits and private landowners, like the Canadian River Cooperative Weed Management Area, to successfully control these plants.

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