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.

Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE)

Through the most recent farm bill, the federal government has allocated several million dollars for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) which conserves agricultural working lands and wetlands, including playas, for 30 years or in perpetuity. These easements eliminate the threat of development to enrolled acres and are designed by the landowner and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Land eligible for wetland reserve easements includes farmed or converted playas 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. Landowners may apply at any time through their local USDA Service Center.

Permanent Easements – Permanent easements are conservation easements in perpetuity. The landowner receives 100% of the easement value for the purchase of the easement and 75-100% of the restoration costs.

30-year Easements – These easements expire after 30 years. Under 30-year easements, the landowner receives 50-75% of the easement value for the purchase of the easement and between 50-75% of the restoration costs.

For wetland reserve easements, all costs associated with recording the easement in the local land records office, including recording fees, charges for abstracts, survey and appraisal fees, and title insurance are paid by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

The Conservation Reserve Program 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 valuable land cover to help improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and develop wildlife habitat. Enrolling in CRP may be a good option for landowners who have fields that contain multiple playas or a large number of wetland acres. 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.

Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP)

There are three CCRP practices that apply to playas within Kansas. This program differs from the general CRP program in that applicants can enroll their acres at any time. Offers are automatically accepted, provided the land and producer meet certain eligibility requirements and the enrollment levels do not exceed the statutory cap. Under CCRP, there are national initiatives as well as state and regional initiatives that address high-priority wildlife objectives. CCRP is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency.

CP23A – Wetland Restoration

This program is for wetlands not in the 100-year floodplain, including playas, that have been converted to agricultural uses. No wetland determination is required. Upland acres around the playa can also be included as a buffer for soil erosion protection and water quality enhancement, as well as habitat for a variety of wildlife, especially waterfowl, upland game birds, and songbirds. An upland buffer with a maximum 4:1 ratio may be enrolled. For instance, the maximum 4:1 ratio can be used to help square up the remaining crop field around playas that are 20 acres or less. There is a sign-up incentive of $180 per acre and a 20% incentive payment over the average soil rental rate. Mid-contract management practices to keep the cover healthy are required. Enrolled playas are not eligible for managed haying and grazing.

CP 27/28 – Farmable Wetlands and Buffers

This program is for wetlands not in the 100-year floodplain, including playas, that are 10 acres or less and have been converted to agricultural uses. A jurisdictional wetland determination is required. To protect water quality and provide wildlife habitat, the associated upland buffer (of 30-150 ft. or up to three times the wetland acres) must also be enrolled. For playas, a maximum of 50 acres may be enrolled. There is a sign-up incentive of $180 per acre and a 20% incentive payment over the weighted average soil rental rate. Mid-contract management practices to keep the cover healthy will be required.

CP38B – Migratory Bird, Butterfly and Pollinator Habitat
This program is designed to provide private landowners a market-based financial incentive for restoring playas, the most common wetlands in the region. An innovative market- based approach for sign-up will enable landowners to submit bids of up to $300 per acre. Submitted bids are based upon landowner values in a competitive process. Tract sizes of up to 160 acres, including the playa and buffer, are allowed.
Mid-contract management practices to keep the cover healthy will be required, including the option for managed harvesting of the acres and/or prescribed grazing. Eligibility limited to playas located within distinct priority areas of the state. Although this is a continuous CRP signup conservation practice, offers will be ranked at intervals. Those that don’t make the first cut-off date, or aren’t accepted during the first batch, will be carried over for consideration during the next round.

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. EQIP can help farmers and ranchers restore or enhance playas in a variety of ways, including sediment removal, buffer establishment, prescribed grazing, fencing or water development to manage 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. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis; however, NRCS establishes application cut-off or submission deadline dates for consideration in upcoming evaluation periods. Talk to your local Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservationist or a private lands biologist to learn how EQIP can be used to meet your individual goals for your playa.

Habitat First

Private landowners can receive technical assistance for playa conservation through the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism (KDWPT) 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 or an exclusion fence. 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. KDWPT biologists also coordinate public hunting access programs, which may be used in conjunction with some conservation practices.

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 request a free consultation with a Ducks Unlimited biologist, contact Joe Kramer at 620.388.5878.