Grazing animals working for conservation

Cattle grazing playa wetlands.

© Brittany Smith

Cattle grazing playa wetlands.

Ducks Unlimited biologist Abe Lollar is building connections with private landowners and helping them learn the value of grazing as a wetland management tool. In cooperation with the Kansas Grazing Land Coalition, Lollar is presenting at workshops on how integrating grazing operations with wetland conservation can benefit wildlife and people. 

"We are working with ranchers to establish wetland management goals that provide grass for livestock and keep playa wetlands in good health," said Lollar. "The majority of playa wetlands occur on private lands, so it is important to connect with landowners and ranchers to include them in our efforts to conserve these important habitats." 

Establishing a grass buffer around playas protects the wetland and keeps it healthy. Every few years the grass needs to be set back, and grazing is one of many tools to do that. Letting animals graze grassland buffers around playas prevents overgrowth of vegetation and encourages nutrient cycling to keep the vegetation productive and the soil and wetlands healthy. 

Lollar is also educating people about the significant roll playa wetlands play in recharging the Ogallala aquifer by reaching out to youth, agriculture producers and the public.

"We are teaching people about the connection between protecting and managing playa lakes and the sustainability of the Ogallala Aquifer. They know where the water they pump for irrigation comes from, we also want them to know how to get water back into the ground through healthy functioning playas and to keep their operations productive," Lollar said.