The 1.2 million farmers and ranchers in the PLJV region (eastern Colorado and New Mexico, the panhandle of Texas and Oklahoma, western Kansas, and Nebraska) play a critical role in managing and protecting the grasslands and playas that provide water, food and shelter for resident and migrating birds. Because 97 percent of the land in the PLJV region is privately owned, habitat conservation requires a personal, custom-tailored approach, with solutions that benefit both the landowners’ needs and the conservation goal. This often happens at the local level, when groups are formed to address a specific goal. Local support, collaboration and leadership is necessary for long-term success. Efforts in small areas, sometimes just at the level of one or several counties, can be very effective. It is through these local conservation partnerships that the majority of our habitat work takes place.
PLJV defines conservation partnerships as groups of resource managers, landowners, community leaders, conservationists and others that work collaboratively to conserve the natural resources in their area—be it playas, grasslands or everything in between. Partnerships can focus on small areas, working in a county or two, or larger areas, even state-wide, depending on the goals and resources of the group. They can be formal—complete with bylaws and boards of directors—or informal, so long as they possess certain attributes that PLJV believes will lead to successful and sustained conservation:
- Connections to landowners and local agency representatives
- A structure for collaboration
- Awareness of conservation needs
- A plan with measurable goals
- Ability to self-evaluate against stated goals
- Access to habitat management options and information
- Knowledge of and ability to access programs and funding
- Ability to fundraise
- Ability to self-promote
- Ability to understand and implement a biological plan
- Long-term collaboration on a variety of conservation issues
Because we believe local efforts are more effective at delivering playa conservation, PLJV encourages and supports the development of local playa conservation partnerships, in targeted areas—areas where the potential for playa conservation is high, where there is good partner support and where there are landowners who can demonstrate the economic, conservation and social benefits of playa conservation.
Over the years, PLJV has invested considerable funds and resources in helping partners increase their local capacity to collaboratively conserve habitat. Much of this investment has come through the Capacity Grants program. To date, Capacity Grants have helped create and support nearly a dozen conservation partnerships resulting in more than 750,000 acres protected, enhanced and/or restored for wildlife value.
Some of the groups that the Capacity Grant Program has assisted include the Prairie and Wetlands Focus Area Committee in southeast Colorado and the Platte River Basin Environments in western Nebraska. There are many other partnerships operating independently of direct PLJV involvement that are also achieving incredible results, such as the Comanche Pool in south-central Kansas and the South Platte Focus Area Committee in northeastern Colorado. PLJV works to engage conservation partnerships by promoting their successes, providing access to our planning, and offering other habitat conservation resources and tools.
There are many grassroots alliances of landowners, resource managers and community leaders working to conserve wildlife habitat throughout the western Great Plains. If you are interested in getting involved, contact a conservation partnership in your area or learn how to start a local conservation partnership.