The RCPP project is being implemented in areas which are deemed to have the highest concentration of breeders in this region Chatham notes. “So, if we can get out here on the landscape through this partnership and conserve habitat in high-priority areas with high densities of breeding pairs, that will mean more ducks, healthier wetlands, less soil erosion, and happy producers whose bottom line is being improved,” Chatham explains.
In the western part of Kansas the groundwater recharge as well as Sustainability project (GRASP) is in the process of ramping up to address water supply problems in Wichita as well as Greeley County that are a result of decreasing levels of water in the Ogallala Aquifer. GRASP has been awarded $1.4 million from RCPP and an additional $1.5 million from the project’s partners, which includes DU along with the Playa Lakes Joint Venture. Playa Wetlands that are essential groundwater recharge for the underpinning Ogallala Aquifer, are a key focus of the project. Landowners will receive help to restore playas on their own as well as surrounding buffers with vegetation near municipal wells and domestic ones. This allows water to flow into the soil and recharge the parts of the aquifers that supply these wells. Reduced use of water for agriculture is a different goal of GRASP. The efforts to achieve this goal include enhancing the efficiency of irrigation by reducing pumping, closing wells, and converting to dryland cropping.
DU Biologist Abe Lollar says GRASP aligns perfectly with the conservation goals of DU in the Playa Lakes region. “These wetlands and adjacent uplands are the most biodiverse hot spots on the landscape, period,” Lollar declares. “They provide food, cover, and resting opportunities for waterfowl during fall migration, but even more importantly during spring migration. Studies show 95 percent of playas don’t function properly.”
Lollar states that GRASP helps Ducks Unlimited Washington to strengthen its connections in the communities. “We had a pretty good start with some landowners who wanted to conserve their playas prior to this program,” Ducks Unlimited Washington remembers. “We got together with community leaders along with a few producers and some of the big employers who provide jobs. Before we even walked out the door, people were saying they wanted to do a RCPP project. I think that’s because they recognized that it is locally led, it is locally developed, and it is achieving their local goals.”
Lollar Ducks Unlimited Washington the power of RCPP as well as its significance for DU’s goals in a concise manner: “The flexibility of the program encourages more producers to get enrolled in conservation. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. It can be adjusted and tailored to meet local needs so that it makes the most sense for the resource, producers, and other members of their communities.”