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Grassroots Works for Grasslands

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Published on: Dec. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 17, 2010

launched the Lek Trek, a public awareness campaign named after the booming ground (lek) of the prairie chicken. From July to October 2000, hundreds of people walked parts of the 565-mile Lek Trek route through western Missouri. This part of the state once was covered by tallgrass prairie.

During the Lek Trek, thousands of people learned about grassland issues through media coverage or by attending any of the 18 special events or 24 "Learning Days" offered along the route. During this public aware-ness campaign, "Boomer," the prairie chicken mascot, spread the word about prairie communities and grass-land wildlife at schools, field days and social events across the state.

Meanwhile, work on grasslands switched into high gear. The Grasslands Coalition orchestrated manpower, funding, knowledge of grassland ecology, and the sup-port of Missouri landowners to address habitat issues in key areas.

Private organizations add an important dimension to the Coalition, offering fresh questions, observations, volunteers and enthusiasm.

Coalition members attend workshops on prairie chickens, grazing, prescribed burning, insects and other aspects of grassland ecology. They share manpower and equipment to conduct burns, remove trees and brush, run a prairie seed collection cooperative and monitor wildlife-friendly grazing systems.

They also provide matching funds and labor to compete for grants. They sponsor Americorps Teams to help supply manpower. They work together to apply new Farm Bill programs, such as WHIP, GRP and EQIP, to grassland management.

To decide how and where to direct resources, coalition members inventoried 15 areas that still support prairie chickens. Based on the amount and quality of existing grasslands and the level of landowner interest, nine of these areas were chosen as focus areas. Team leaders wrote strategic plans and work objectives for the focus areas and assembled work teams to help them accomplish their goals.

Obtaining grants offered a solution to the huge problem of funding. In a few short years, good grant writers helped change the landscape, so to speak.

Donor organizations prefer projects that promise long-range planning and long-term commitment from a number of partners. Because grassland wildlife is of particular interest to many organizations, Grasslands Coalition projects fit perfectly.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Phillips Petroleum, the National Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have all contributed to Grasslands Coalition work. In the few years since its inception, the Grasslands Coalition has applied more than $1 million to prairie management and grassland

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