Preserving Ranching Heritage in Kansas Hill Country

Chester Peterson, Jr., of Lindsborg, Kansas, owns grass and cropland on the western margin of the Flinthills, a rolling landscape of tall- and shortgrass prairie largely unchanged since settlers crossed it in the 1860s. He wanted to keep the land perpetually free from subdevelopment, petroleum wells, wind turbines and cellular towers. He contracted land easements with the Ranchland Trust of Kansas. That organization, created by the Kansas Livestock Association, is tasked with preserving Kansas ranching heritage and open spaces for future generations.

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A Playa Rehabilitation Story

New Mexico rancher John Wood has a 160-200 acre playa, named Buffalo Lake, in his pasture. Several years ago, The Nature Conservancy’s Tish McDaniel consulted Wood and assisted in restoring his playa. Wood says he’s now witnessing larger numbers of migrating birds, and thinks other wildlife have returned.

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Conservation Plan Helps Texas Rancher Adapt

Lesser Prairie-Chicken

Clay Cooper signed the first Lesser Prairie-Chicken conservation plan in Texas, through the Natural Resources Conservation Service “Working Lands for Wildlife” partnership — an agreement with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. By participating in the grassland management program, he benefits from technical and monetary assistance from NRCS, and, should a bird be accidentally killed, he won’t be held liable for its loss. Awful drought in 2011-2012, plus a wildfire that destroyed 75-80 percent of his grass, caused Cooper to have to disperse a large part of his herd. He discusses both changes to his environment.

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Deferred Grazing on Grissom Ranch

Rancher Grady Grissom discusses the lessons he’s learned from deploying a deferred-rotation system of managed grazing on his 14,000-acre ranch. But he doesn’t like the term “grazing system.” He says you don’t choose a “system.” You graze toward a goal. His goal in recent years has been to encourage the growth of cool-season grasses. That’s meant longer periods of rest for pastures.

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Playa Renovation on Haynes Farm in Colorado

Larry Haynes, a farmer from Holyoke, Colorado, talks about putting land “to its best use.” For decades he attempted to farm playas in his fields, but said he “rarely” was able to harvest crops grown in those wetlands. So he renovated and planted large buffers around them, thus putting the playas “to their best use” as wildlife habitat.

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Managed Intensive Grazing on Birdwell and Clark Ranch

Deborah Clark and her husband Emory apply the principles of holistic ranch management, and they use managed intensive grazing on their stocker cattle operation on 14,000 acres in north-central Texas. Holistic management demands that the practitioner think through tasks, processes and the deployment of assets not to “put pounds on cattle,” but to remain laser-focused on a goal of profitability gained from efficiently-grazed cattle on an ever-improving healthy grass landscape.

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Conserving Playas Provides Lush Grazing and Bird Habitat

Shaw Family Farms had several playas that often made farming the field a challenging proposition. The Shaws fenced-off 80 acres, developed those resident playas by restoring natural hydrology and planting grass buffers. They further enhanced the parcel by planting a variety of grasses and forbs to attract bugs and birds, then put the land in a permanent conservation easement. Their cows and calves now graze the wetland parcel, and bugs and birds are attracted to the forbs and seeds.

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Managing CRP Buffers Increases Quality Habitat and Hunting Habitat

Physician Joe Barnes is a hunter. He consulted Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologist Tyson Seirer on ways he and his tenant producer could make crop fields more hospitable for pheasant and quail at little additional expense.

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Conserving Playas “Puts Land to Its Best Use”

Larry Haynes of Holyoke, CO, is a proponent of putting land to its best use. In his case, that meant no longer farming through playas in crop fields and developing those wetlands into wildlife habitat to benefit autumn and winter hunting.

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Ranchers Rediscover Burning

Prescribed burning

Biologist Peter Berthelson of Pheasants Forever took action to educate land managers in Nebraska how to burn and created burn trailers stocked with all the hardware required to safely conduct prescribed burns. Rancher Tom Hartman talks about using fire to control an Eastern Red Cedar invasion in this episode.

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