Three Rivers Alliance in Colorado

The mission of the Three Rivers Alliance is to sustain vibrant natural and human communities of the Republican River Basin by promoting good stewardship of its land, water and wildlife. The group addresses three aspects of long-term landscape sustainability: economics, education and conservation.

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Landowner Conservation Partnerships

Habitat conservation requires local support, collaboration and leadership. When landowners, community leaders and resource managers work collaboratively to conserve natural resources, that’s when the majority of habitat work takes place. We examine what local conservation partnerships are — and why they’re important.

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Weaver Ranch Restores Habitat

Jim Weaver

The sprawling Weaver Ranch near Causey, New Mexico, is located in important Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitat. Ranch manager Willard Heck talks about removing 400-500 acres of mesquite that had encroached onto prairie land, fragmenting the bird’s habitat. A three-year drought has impeded the bird from thriving, but Heck thinks the chicken’s population is increasing on the ranch.

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New Mexico Reclamation Project

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has partnered with hundreds of groups to restore and link back together the Lesser Prairie-Chicken’s eastern New Mexico habitat. With funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, crews are removing petroleum welljack pads and service roads, reseeding with native grasses, and removing other vertical objects like mesquite, trees and old windmills in effort to restore a habitat more friendly to the needs of the bird.

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Lesser Prairie-Chicken’s Aversion to Vertical Structures

Scientists researching the population declines of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken say the bird’s habitat has been damaged by vertical structures and human activity like road-building and oil and gas mining. Vertical structures include mesquite and other woody invasives, which the bird is averse to nesting near. Those features lead to habitat fragmentation. The bird is reluctant to cross roads and transmission lines. It tries to stay away from mesquite and trees. As a result, it self-limits habitat. Scientists and land managers discuss what’s been learned.

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Managed Grazing During Times of Drought

Much of the High Plains region is under extreme or exceptional drought. Learn how enrolling grassland in the NRCS Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative helps landowners take advantage of technical advice for deploying managed-grazing regimes to protect rangeland, both for cattle-grazing and Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitat. Good rangeland management during drought will enable the landscape to recover faster once “Mother Nature turns the spigot on again.”

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Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative at Work

Land manager Tom Turner manages grazing land in west-central Kansas in the sandhills south of Kinsley. Owing to sandy soil composition the grassland is fragile. Turner got the land enrolled in the NRCS Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative and used cost-share money to improve cross-fencing and a livestock watering system. That eased the process of rotational grazing, one of the components of a managed grazing plan to protect the fragile landscape while improving Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitat.

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NRCS Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative

The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative funds managed-grazing programs that help the grass and therefore the rancher’s bottom line, and also help support the habitat of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. Learn about cost-share funds in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) that help ranchers with projects related to managed grazing. These EQIP funds available under the Initiative are a “life saver” for land coming out of CRP, helping them be reverted to grazing land rather than plowed and planted to crops.

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Nebraska Landowner Conserves Rainwater Basin

Laurel Badura, wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, found incentive funding allowing ag producer Bart Jacobson to renovate and conserve a rainwater basin on grassland that’s grazed by cattle and sheep under aggressive management. Jacobson is pleased with the results and credits Badura with arranging funding and managing the details of the partnerships, which drove the project forward.

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Rainwater Basins and Playas: What’s the Difference?

A 21-county area of south central Nebraska is home to thousands of rainwater basins, which are identical in function to the playas of the southern plains, but formed by different natural forces. In addition, these basins hold water longer than the playas to the south, providing lush plant and invertebrate life for migratory birds on their way north in late-winter to nest. The region has been losing rainwater basins, but efforts are underway to work with landowners to guard these wetlands for bird habitat.

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