Healthy Playas Needed to Support Birds

Healthy, functioning playas provide important habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. To continue to work effectively, playas need their basins to be intact, excess sediment removed, and a filtering grass buffer that traps sediment while allowing water to reach the playa.

Playas are impacted by a variety of modifications and land-use changes that reduce their ability to function properly and continue providing benefits to the people and wildlife in this region. Many playas have been “lost” to farming, energy development, and sedimentation, and we know they are unlikely to fully function as a wetland in the future. But there are many opportunities to work with conservation partners, private landowners, and industry to restore enough playas to provide needed wildlife habitat.

Our Goal: 32,611 Healthy Playas

Of the 71,850 probable playas in our region, we need 32,611 healthy playas to provide wetland habitat for migratory birds. We are currently at 69% of our goal.

The goal was derived from a network analysis of Southern High Plains playas by Gene Albanese and Dave Haukos. One conclusion of this analysis is that to maintain the playa ecosystem across the Southern High Plains, at least 40% of playas must be functioning. We expanded that conclusion to make our goal 40% of playas in each county must be functioning. To learn more about how PLJV sets goals and develops strategies for conservation, view our implementation plan.

Our Progress Last Year

At the end of each year, we measure progress by counting the number of playas the larger PLJV partnership has conserved that year. We also look at how many playas were “lost” through energy development, leaving CRP, etc.

One of our playa conservation success stories was completing the two-year playa restoration project, funded by the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund, that filled pits in 17 playas in four states. Of those, 14 playas are on US Forest Service National Grasslands: four on Kiowa National Grassland in New Mexico, nine on Comanche National Grassland in Colorado, and one on Rita Blanca National Grassland in Texas. The other three playas include on private land in collaboration with USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Colorado, and two in collaboration with the Oklahoma Commissioners of the Land Office.

If you did some conservation work on a playa make sure we know so it can get counted towards our goal!

What We’re Working On

The PLJV partnership currently has several initiatives to restore playas throughout the region. Vestibulum ornare leo, nulla venenatis lorem tristique, mauris sit. Dolor facilisi. Eu donec non integer donec quisque, ut sed sit quisque. Felis nunc et augue vitae sodales sed, pede laoreet nec qui, fermentum pede urna blandit, amet cras ornare odio id molestie. Eget molestie accumsan felis pretium, phasellus ipsum, aliquam orci eget. Vestibulum ornare leo, nulla venenatis lorem tristique, mauris sit. Dolor facilisi.

USDA Migratory Bird, Butterfly and Habitat SAFE Practice –  344 playas
On January 11, 2017, the newly-established Migratory Bird, Butterfly, and Pollinator Habitat State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (Migratory Bird SAFE) practice was announced in Kansas and Nebraska. This program is entirely focused on conserving playas, with up to 10,000 acres available for enrollment in each state. During the first enrollment period, 328 offers were received in Kansas and 16 offers in Nebraska.

Texas Playa Conservation Initiative – 980 playas
The goal of this multi-partner effort is to restore playas throughout the Texas Panhandle to improve wetland habitat for migratory waterfowl, shorebirds and cranes, as well as upland game birds. The restoration work will focus exclusively on filling pits and trenches in buffered playas — those in native grassland or enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. The partners are currently working in Castro, Floyd, Lubbock, Swisher, Armstrong, Briscoe, and Crosby counties, where there are 980 grassland playas with pits in them.

Resilient Communities: Clovis, New Mexico – 126 playas
A diverse group of organizations and individuals are collaborating to conserve and restore playas in Curry County, New Mexico, with the goal of supporting the City of Clovis’ municipal water supply and providing needed habitat for migratory birds. The partnership includes city and county government agencies and organizations, soil and water conservation districts, local landowners, state and federal agencies, and nonprofit conservation organizations.

North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) Grants – 168 playas
The North American Wetlands Conservation Act provides federal funding from the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the form of matching grants for projects that support long-term wetlands acquisition, restoration, and/or enhancement to benefit migratory birds. The PLJV partnership has either received or has applied for grants to restore approximately 168 playas: 140 in Kansas; 17 in New Mexico; 8 in Nebraska; and 3 in Texas.