KGLC Kansas Prairie Primer
PrologueThe Mission of the Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition is: “To regenerate Kansas grazing land resources through cooperative management, economics, ecology, production, education, and technical assistance programs.”
The focus of the Prairie Primer and Current Grassland Conditions is to identify and provide information on factors affecting the regeneration and maintenance of native grasslands and other grazing lands that exist throughout the state of Kansas for its various uses and values such as livestock grazing, wildlife habitat, scenic beauty, recreation, tourism, and other cultural values.
Kansas is a “Prairie” state noted for its native grasslands, streams and wetlands, abundant blue skies and green grassland vistas. The native grasslands that exist throughout Kansas are one of the state’s most important renewable natural resources. These grasslands help maintain the landscape and its watersheds and aid in maintaining the water quality in our streams and lakes. Grassland habitats are home to many of the state’s rich diversity of native plants and wildlife species.
Kansas prairies are a product of the natural environment. Climate, geology, soils, grazing animals and man’s activity, now and in the past, have all contributed to the grasslands that we have inherited and choose to provide stewardship for.
The peoples of Kansas have had a rich, diverse cultural history closely associated with the prairies and grasslands of this state. Nomadic "paleoindians" hunted on the high plains prehistorically. The Kanza or Kaw Tribe, "The People of the South Wind", gave this state its name. Kansas has been host to many historical events. Coronado and other early Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to "discover" Kansas' bountiful grasslands. They were quickly followed by the French and other early European explorers wanting to trade for furs. Kansas was the door to Western expansion and settlement. Kansas frontier forts became famous during the "Indian Wars" of the 1860's. The Santa Fe, Smoky Hill, and Oregon Trail hardened and honed settlers heading west. The reputation of the hardy pioneering spirit of early Kansas women continues today. There were the Exodusters and the settlement of Nicodemus after the Civil War. Kansas cattle trails, cowboys, lawmen, and cowtowns are legendary . Cowboys and cattle have been a part of the prairie fabric for over one hundred and fifty years in Kansas. There was also the buffalo hunter, the railroads, barbed wire, and the plow. The howl of the prairie wolf and the roar of the Plains grizzly bear are remembered no more....we can only hope that no one ever says the same about Kansas Prairies.
Kansas grasslands are of prime economic importance, too. The state nationally ranks 12th in acres of pasture and rangeland. Kansas presently has about 15.8 million acres of native grasslands or rangelands, 2.5 million acres of pastureland, and at any given time, 3 to 6 million acres of annual forages. In 2009 cattle generated $5.55 billion in cash receipts for the state; and, at the start of this year, 2010, Kansas ranked third nationally with 6 million head of cattle on ranches and in feed yards throughout the state.
For now and the future, Kansas grasslands encompass a host of rich natural resource opportunities and provide an equal number of resource management challenges. The task is humbling and requires access to a vast, rapidly expanding knowledge base, and that is the purpose of this Prairie Primer.
This document is a “web-based” document. It will initially follow the outline proposed below and will continue to expand and develop as new knowledge and technology becomes available. A web source containing the appropriate information will be linked to each subject area. Where needed, additional guidance will be provided to assist users in accessing the information available on a given site.
Kansas Prairie PrimerKansas Grasslands, along with its water, are among the state's most important natural resources. Their continued existence and regeneration is a critical factor to the future of the state's economic, environmental, and social well being.
Kansas Grazing Lands
- Physical Environment
- Grassland Origins
- Soils http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov
- Physiographic Regions
- Kansas Vegetation Map (GAP Map) 2002
- Kansas "Bluestem-Pasture" Region History
- Kansas Ecosystems Map
- Kansas Pasture/Rangeland Profile
- The Kansas Biological Survey
- Kansas Geological Survey
- Konza Prairie Biological Station
- Kansas Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Ecological Sites and Forage Suitability GroupsThe USDA-NRCS National Range and Pasture Handbook (NRPH), Chapter Three discusses ecological sites and forage suitability groups:
- Ecological Site State and Transition Models - The model for each Kansas ecological site is found within the rangeland Ecological Site Description (ESD) that has been developed for that site as found above.
- Plant communities - A list of plants and description/discussion of plant communities is a part of each rangeland Ecological Site Description (ESD).
Grazing Land Plants
- Plant health and vigor
- Rangeland Health&Planned Grazing Field Guide
- Introduced species
- forbs and legumes
Kansas Threatened and Endangered Plant Species
- Threatened and Endangered - USDA Plant Database
- Mead's milkweed
- Western prairie fringed orchid
- running buffalo clover
Kansas Woody Plants
- Kansas Forest Service
- Invasive woody species on Kansas Rangelands
Eastern Red Cedar Invasion - This is part of a PowerPoint presentation given by Dr. Kevin Price, Department of Agronomy & Department of Geography, Kansas State University, at the 2010 KGLC range schools. We greatly appreciate his permission to use this information. We were in awe of this series of slides developed by Dr. Price from the first time we viewed it. It is a series of slides from 1985 to 2002 in Douglas County, KS showing just how insidious woody invasion, eastern red cedar in this case, can be. Dr. Price's work in remote sensing is an invaluable tool in rangeland studies.
Kansas Invasive Plant SpeciesKansas Department of Agriculture's " Noxious and Invasive Weed Update" - Spring 2012
- KDA - Plant Protection and Weed Control Program Staff
- KDA - Noxious Weed Control Program
- KDA - Certified Weed Free Forage and Mulch Program
- KDA- Kansas Weed-Free Forage Producers
- State Noxious Weed List
- Musk Thistle
- Sericea Lespedeza, invasive species in the Tallgrass Prairie
- Sericea Lespedeza Information (KSU Extension Agronomy)
- Sericea Lespedeza Identification (Great Plains Nature Center) comparison with native lespedezas
- Sericea Lespedeza Multi-State Working Group History, characteristics, and identification (KSU pub.)
- Kansas Dept. of Ag "Sericea Lespedeza" weed control publication
- Ecology and Management of Sericea Lespedeza Oklahoma State Univ. publication
- Sericea Lespedeza information and bibliography (bugwood.wiki.org)
- Sericea Lespedeaz bibliography (U.S. Forest Service)
Kansas Wildflower and Grasses Pocket Guides
- R.L. McGregor Herbarium
- Kansas Natural Heritage Inventory
- KSU herbarium
- Elam Bartholomew Herbarium - FHSU
- Emporia State University Herbarium
- T.M. Sperry Herbarium - Pittsburg State University
Inventory and Monitoring Grazing Land ResourcesThere are established sampling techniques to gather information on the impact of management to rangelands. For example, it is desirable to keep a record of annual forage production and also to determine if there is any shift in plant species composition. On rangelands some plants are more palatable and nutritious. Under heavy grazing pressure they can decrease and other less palatable and less nutritious plants replace them. In some severe instances there can even be a predominance of plants with toxins that are poisonous to livestock.
Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Office for Rangeland Management Specialist technical assistance.
- Evaluating and Rating Ecological Sites
- Vegetation Sampling Techniques
- Rangeland Health
Grazing Systems (Cattle)
- A Summary of Livestock Grazing Systems Used in Western U.S. and Canada - click here
- Continuous Grazing
- Intensive-Early Stocking
- Deferred Grazing
- Rotation Grazing
- Deferred Rotation
- Late-Season Rest Rotation
- High Intensity Low Frequency
- Management Intensive Grazing
- Complementary or Sequence Grazing
Grazing Other Domestic Livestock
Grazing Distribution Practices
KSU Research and Extension
- KSU Research and Extension at Manhattan
- Western Kansas Agricultural Research Centers
Other Information & Education
- Society for Range Management
- Kansas Section Society for Range Management
- Kansas Native Plant Society
- Dr. Fred Provenza -BEHAVE
- Charlie Orchard - Land EKG
- Dr. Jim Gerrish - American GrazingLands Services LLC
- Kit Pharo - Pharo Cattle Company
- Greg Judy - Green Pastures Farm
Native Prairie Hay Meadows
Fire - Prescribed Burning
- USDA-NRCS webinar video - "Working With Prescribed Burn Associations" Sept. 18,2013
- Kansas Flint Hills Smoke Management Website (Feb. 2, 2011)
- Kansas Smoke Management Planning - KDHE
- Smoke Modeling Science, Tools and Information - Susan O'Neill, Ph.D., NRCS
- Why conduct a prescribed burn
- How to conduct a prescribed burn
- Prescribed Burning, Planning and Conducting-KSU
- Prescribed Burning Guide - video by Missouri Dept. of Conservation
- Prescribed Burning Safety
- Prescribed Burn Liability
- Prescribed Burning Plan -KS-ECS-338
- Oklahoma Prescribed Burning Management Plan
- NEW Web-Based Smoke Management System tested at KSU
- Prescribed Fire/Burn Associations-OSU
- Patch Burn-Grazing Information
- Fire Science Online A uniquely focused Forestry guide tailored to those exploring Forestry careers. All guides from our organization are no-cost and can be accessed by anyone. You can find our Forestry guide here:
A unique Kansas guide focused on providing career and education information is provided. We provide a list of schools and programs from the U.S. federal government National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and provide interviews with fire experts in Kansas. On the career side, we provide income tables in Kansas for Firefighters, Fire Inspectors / Investigators, and Fire Service Supervisors, talk about fire training, and also have a full section dedicated to Public Service Careers - see our top navigation. Anyone can access the Kansas guide here:
- Wildfire in the US
- Is Your Home Ready for a Wildfire?
- National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Firewise Communities Program
- Kansas Forest Service
- Master Fire Planning for Counties in Kansas
- Rangeland Fire Danger Forecast
- Kansas Threatened and Endangered Species This link includes statewide and county listings, species information, range maps, and species images. It also includes current infomation on the Lesser Prairie Chicken.
- Kansas Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plan
- State Wildlife Grant (SWG) Private Land Program
- Kansas Native Upland Game Birds
- Waterfowl and Shorebirds
- Fish - Prairie streams are home to many aquatic species. Prairie stream fishes are good indicators of healthy streams and water quality. These in turn can be a reflection of man's activities like land use changes, fragmentation, and grazing management.
- Species List for Kansas
- Grassland Birds
- The State of Birds on Private Lands in the US 2013
- "The Future of Grassland Birds on Working Lands" (video) Stasya Berber, FHSU
- "Integrating Agriculture and Grassland Bird Management: A Land Management Guide" Clint Helms, FHSU
Grassland Wildlife Habitat Issues
- Partners in Flight
- Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) - planning
- PLJV on Decision Support Systems (DSS)/Decision Support Tools (DST) and an example
- Declining Birds in Grassland Ecosystems
- Prairie Fragmentation
- Wildlife Management (K-State Research and Extension)
- Nuisance Wildlife Damage Control (K-State Research and Extension)
- Grazing Lands Hydrology and Erosion
- Kansas water quality and watershed management
- Kansas rivers and streams
- Kansas Wetlands and Riparian areas
- Kansas Electronice Watershed Library (KEWL)
Monitoring Climate Change in KansasGrasslands are characterized by climates with periodic drought. Grassland managers, to be successful, are encouraged to monitor and record precipitation on their own grazing lands and to develop a drought management plan as a part of their overall grassland management plan. The following sites provide information and resources to address these management concerns.
- GreenReport - Current vegetation greenness and relative condition maps for US
- The National Drought Mitigation Center provides information to users on current drought conditions and drought management planning
- Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS)
- Kansas CoCoRaHS - Daily Precipitation Map - VIEW MAP
Urban GrowthWe talk about "urban sprawl" and the conversion of agricultural lands to other uses all the time. The link that follows is a stunning visual representation of that sprawl. Kansas National Resource Inventory (NRI) data shows that in the last 25 years (from 1982 to 2007) Kansas has lost 1.2 million acres of rangeland. In the same period, there were 348,300 acres of land in various uses converted to urban/built-up lands. That is almost 14,000 acres per year in Kansas being converted to urban/built-up lands.
Environmental ConsiderationsCertain activities on private lands require compliance with state and federal laws. Individual state and federal agencies are given responsibility for the rules and regulations in administering these laws. Both state and federal agency employees are available locally to assist landowners in providing technical and sometimes financial assistance in complying with existing laws and their rules and regulations.
- Kansas Environmental Coordination Act
- National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
- National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA)
- Kansas Threatened and Endangered Species Act
- Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA)
Energy DevelopmentThe Kansas Natural Resource Planner is a handy new interactive web-based mapping tool designed to help site development projects so that Kansas can benefit from the development of its natural resources such as wind energy while protecting wildlife and wildlife habitat.
- Kansas Corporation Commission
- Salt Water Disposal
- Abandoned Well Plugging Credit
- Kansas Wind Farm Map
- Community Wind Energy Development (Kansas Farm Bureau)
- Grass as Energy Alternative
EconomicsThe Livestock Industry contributes significantly to the Kansas Economy. Some recent economic facts gathered by the Kansas Livestock Association (KLA) point to Kansas as being among the national leaders.
Kansas Travel and TourismThe Kansas Travel and Tourism Division of the Kansas Department of Commerce is located in Topeka, KS.
They assist individuals, communities, economic development groups, regional travel and tourism groups,
and even state and federal agencies in promoting travel and tourism in the state of Kansas.
Preserving Kansas Prairies
- Kansas Land Trust
- Ranchland Trust of Kansas
- Sunflower Land Trust
- The Nature Conservancy - Kansas
- USDA-NRCS Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program
Conservation Programs Providing Technical and/or Financial Assistance to LandownersThere are many State and Federal agencies with numerous technical assistance and cost-sharing programs. Lots of agency (DOC, NRCS, KDWP, KDHE....) and program (CRP,EQIP, SWG, WHIP...) acronyms to confuse the issue. Your local county conservation district office can help you sort it all out....Kansas Conservation Districts
- Kansas Department of Agriculture - Division of Conservation(DOC) - home page
- Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) - Kansas - home page
- U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) - Kansas
Rangelands in Other States
- Rangelands West This link provides access to rangeland information in all states within the western US.
Emerging Issues – Looking to the FutureThis speaks to similar topical areas from above, plus the additional of any new areas such as viability of passing the ranch on to heirs, etc. This should project out at least 20 years.
- Kansas Land Use Trends Kansas 2007 NRI Data
- Woody Species Encroachment
- Invasive Species - Integrated Pest Management
- Watershed Management - Kansas WRAPS
- Climate Change