Our biologists can meet with you and discuss the various conservation practices and programs available for playas. We offer technical resources to private landowners to help them restore playa hydrology by filling pits, removing sediment, and planting grass buffers.
If the playa is located in cropland, planting a native grass and forb buffer around the playa can slow sediment accumulation and provide habitat for grassland birds and other wildlife. For playas located in rangeland, installing an exclusion fence around the playa will allow native grass and wetland plants to grow, providing wildlife habitat and slowing soil erosion.
We can also help you identify funding sources to help with restoration costs and provide income when taking the playa and surrounding land out of production, such as the programs listed below. Contact your local biologist to schedule a visit and discuss which options may work for you.
USDA Farm Bill Conservation Programs
Conservation Stewardship Program
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) helps producers conserve water, improve water quality, and provide wildlife habitat on productive and profitable farms. Farmers and ranchers receive technical and financial assistance to actively manage and maintain existing conservation systems and to implement additional conservation enhancement activities on land in agricultural production. Shallow water habitat restoration and management are eligible enhancement activities available to producers through CSP. Producers can apply for funding at any time. Enrollment is competitive, with applications ranked and accepted typically once a year. All CSP contracts last for five years, with an option to apply to renew. Payment amounts are determined by multiple factors — including the costs incurred, income forgone, and expected conservation benefits. Learn more about the Conservation Stewardship Program.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
This voluntary program provides eligible landowners with technical and financial assistance to address resource concerns on their land by implementing conservation plans. The Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) can help farmers and ranchers restore or enhance playas in a variety of ways, including sediment removal, buffer establishment, livestock related practices to assist in managing livestock grazing around the playa, and invasive plant management.
Planting buffer strips around playas addresses water quality resource concerns, while removing sediment from the basin addresses water quantity concerns and recharging the Ogallala aquifer, as well as wildlife habitat. Wildlife habitat concerns can also be addressed by establishing native grasses and forbs to support migratory birds and pollinators. Prescribed grazing plans can be developed to help improve the functions and values of the wetland and buffer area.
Wetland restoration is considered a high priority EQIP practice in Kansas and receives a higher conservation payment percentage for the restoration work completed. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis; however, NRCS establishes application cut-off or submission deadline dates for consideration in upcoming evaluation periods. Learn more about the Environmental Quality Incentive Program.
Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE)
Through the most recent farm bill, the federal government has authorized hundreds of millions of dollars for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which has two components: Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) which conserve agricultural working lands in perpetuity and Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) which protect and restore degraded wetlands, including playas, for 30 years or in perpetuity.
Under 30-year easements, the landowner receives 75% of the easement value for the purchase of the easement and between 50-75% of the restoration costs. Landowners are responsible for a minimum of 25% of the restoration costs for 30-year easements. For permanent easements, the landowner receives 100% of the easement value for the purchase of the easement and 75-100% of the restoration costs. Easement value is determined by the lesser of Geographical Area Rate Cap, individual appraisal or landowner offer. All costs associated with easement acquisition including recording the easement in the local land records office, title work, easement boundary survey, appraisal fees, and title insurance are paid by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. However, any work that is needed and items that need recorded for the landowner to provide clear title to the easement parcel is at the landowner’s expense.
These easements eliminate the threat of development on enrolled acres and restore the wetland functions. Land eligible for wetland reserve easements includes farmed or prior converted playa wetlands that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored. Applications are prioritized based on the potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. The enrollment process includes a wetland reserve restoration easement plan to restore, protect, and enhance the playa’s functions and values. Learn more about Wetland Reserve Easements.
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) pays a yearly rental payment in exchange for farmers removing environmentally sensitive land, including playas, from agricultural production and planting a native grass and forb mix. The long-term goal of the program is to re-establish appropriate land cover to help improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and develop wildlife habitat. Enrolling in General CRP may be a good option for landowners who have fields that contain multiple playas or a large number of wetland acres which are not impaired by excess sediment but need protective shortgrass buffers that allow water to reach the playa. This program is only available during times of open enrollment. Contracts are between 10 and 15 years, with the annual rental payment based on soil types. CRP is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency.
There are also three Continuous CRP practices that apply to playas within Kansas: Wetland Restoration (CP23A), Farmable Wetlands and Buffers (CP27/28), and Migratory Birds, Butterflies and Pollinators Habitat SAFE (CP38B). These continuous practices differ from the general CRP program in that applicants can enroll their acres at any time. The practices are designed to assist with the restoration of playa hydrology and seeding appropriate shortgrass buffers which allow water to reach the playa, enhancing the recharge ability of the playa. For CP23A and CP27/28, offers are automatically accepted, provided the land and producer meet certain eligibility requirements and the enrollment levels do not exceed the statutory cap. CP38B uses a competitive bid process with offers ranked and accepted periodically. Under Continuous CRP, there are national initiatives as well as state and regional initiatives that address high-priority wildlife objectives. Continuous CRP is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency. Learn more about the Conservation Reserve Program.
Regional Conservation Partnership Program
Through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), NRCS co-invests with partners to implement projects that demonstrate innovative solutions to address on-farm, watershed, and regional natural resource concerns. The expertise of farmers, conservation and farm organizations, and state and local agencies are brought together to achieve shared conservation goals. Partner entities, who work with farmers on the ground, submit project proposals to NRCS. Once NRCS selects proposals from these entities, farmers and ranchers are able to apply through NRCS to participate in an RCPP project.
One recent example of a RCPP project is the partner-driven Groundwater Recharge and Sustainability Project (GRASP) which was designed to support Wichita and Greeley Counties in addressing declining aquifer levels. NRCS is investing $1.4 million in the project with an additional $1.5 million coming from partner contributions. The RCPP supports existing and future conservation efforts, such as the current Wichita County WCA and the potential Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA) in Groundwater Management District #1. Through the RCPP, NRCS and other regional partners will coordinate resources to help agricultural producers engage in and maintain conservation activities in targeted areas, focusing on the following voluntary activities: irrigation conservation and efficiency, water retirement, conversion to dryland cropping, and playa restoration.
Learn more about the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.
State Conservation Programs
Private landowners can receive technical assistance for playa conservation through the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks (KDWP) Habitat First program. Technical assistance may include recommendations on habitat improvement, cover types, and food establishment for all species of wildlife. Additionally, there are several state and federal wildlife programs that can provide financial assistance for improving wildlife habitat. This program is suited for those with a small playa that needs a native grass and forb buffer. Habitat First can cover up to 75% of the establishment costs. Landowners receive a one-time payment and the acres are not enrolled in a multi-year contract. KDWP biologists also coordinate public hunting access programs, which may be used in conjunction with some conservation practices. Learn more about Habitat First or contact a KDWP biologist.
Riparian & Wetlands Program
Through the Riparian and Wetland Program, the Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Conservation provides financial assistance to landowners who want to develop or rejuvenate existing wetlands, such as playas, to improve the quality of aquifer recharge and increase quality wildlife habitat. Landowners are eligible for 80% cost-share, up to $10,000, for earthwork and establishing vegetation. To learn more, contact your local conservation district (click on map to view information for your county).
Water Resources Cost-Share Program
The Water Resources Cost-Share Program (WRCSP) provides financial assistance to landowners for the establishment of conservation practices that reduce soil erosion, improve or protect water quality, and enhance water supplies. While the Division Of Conservation (DOC) develops regulations, policy, and procedures to guide program implementation, each county conservation district administers the program at the local level with implementation assistance from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. To learn more, contact your local conservation district (click on map to view information for your county).
Watershed Restoration & Protection Strategy
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment works with local stakeholders to implement Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) projects to address water quality concerns caused by nonpoint source pollution. In addition to water quality, drinking water supply protection, flooding concerns, and wetland habitat protection or restoration are positively impacted through the implementation of WRAPS watershed plans. The planning and management framework engages stakeholders in a process to identify watershed restoration and protection needs, establish management goals, create a cost effective action plan to achieve goals, and implement the action plan. Learn more about the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy program.
Ducks Unlimited Playa Wetland Initiative Program
Private landowners can receive technical, financial, and engineering assistance for playa conservation through Ducks Unlimited’s Playa Wetland Initiative program. On-site consultations are available to discuss restoration options, project design and delivery, and cost-share opportunities. Ducks Unlimited can provide funds, along with enrollment in other programs (including EQIP, WRE, CRP and Habitat First) to fill pits, remove sediment, plant buffers, provide fencing and alternative water sources for livestock, cut trees, remove and manage invasive plants, and other restoration activities. Conservation easements are also available through Ducks Unlimited. Applications will be competitively ranked against other proposals based on available funds and conservation benefits. To learn more (download program flyer) or or call Abe Lollar at 620.214.2693 to request a free consultation.