HUTCHINSON, Kan. June 20, 2019 A $1 million North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant means improved wildlife habitat and access for Kansas residents. Ducks Unlimited (DU) and their partners received the grant to complete the fifth phase of the Kansas Prairie Wetlands program.

The Kansas landscape is under intense pressure from agriculture, development, mineral exploration and other factors, said Matt Hough, DU manager of conservation for Kansas. Kansas has lost half of its playas and other wetland resources since settlement, so this grant focuses on conserving this limited resource. This grant is fundamental for progress toward sufficient migratory bird habitat across the Kansas landscape.

Recently, the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission approved $63 million in grants for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners to conserve or restore more than 326,000 acres of wetland and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds across the United States, Canada and Mexico through the NAWCA grant program.

The Kansas Prairie Wetlands V proposal is a continuation of a successful wetland conservation effort by Ducks Unlimited and its partners.

The previous phases have had outstanding habitat benefits statewide and partner support continues to grow, Hough said. Our success to date is directly tied to the first phases of this grant that allowed us to build the partnerships and momentum to make this conservation possible. Based on our landscape-level approach, these projects will provide critical links between the breeding areas and wintering habitats.

The grant and support from donors, partners and landowners will allow Ducks Unlimited to restore and protect more playa lakes that provide critical habitat for migrating birds. DU also plans to restore important wetland complexes on the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, as well as other public and private lands across the state.

One of the grant projects continues a wildly successful private lands program that received high landowner participation. The program helps restore upland grass buffers and remove invasive trees along Rattlesnake Creek that feeds the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge (QNWR) and Republican River in Cheyenne County.

Additional landowners have seen the results of this project and are now interested in having their properties cleared of Tamarisk and Russian olive trees that have over-grown the river, he said.

The Rattlesnake Creek basin provides water resources to private landowners and inflow to QNWR. The refuge is an area of greatest continental significance to North American waterfowl. It is a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.

The grant includes 3,232 acres of public hunting access and gives priority to private land tracts enrolled in public access programs.

DU and partners will match the grant with more than $1.5 million. Partners and sponsors include several private landowners, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT), Playa Lakes Joint Venture, Kansas Department of Agriculture, Big Bend Groundwater Management District No. 5, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Partners for Fish and Wildlife, Pheasants Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation, Cherokee County Noxious Weed Department, RiversEdge West and Cherokee County Wildlife.