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Published on: Jul. 21, 2010

livestock in native grasses

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Controlled Burns

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grass, but we needed cows to apply our patch-burn grazing regime.”

It was a classic win-win situation for both. Kyle worked with Max Alleger, the Department’s prairie-chicken recovery leader, to develop a plan to build habitat in a way that fit the neighbor’s financial situation. It wasn’t long before Kyle called John and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

A Sweet Deal

“The price was right,” John says of Kyle’s offer. It took a while to work out the particulars, and John had to buy a portable corral to move the cattle from pasture to pasture. But he was more than happy to accept 135 days of grazing a year on two different Stony Point tracts in exchange for removing trees and adopting a more conservative grazing approach that would strengthen native grasses and benefit native birds on his own prairie.

John is also pleased that his efforts will help return prairie-chickens to his neighborhood. He and his family have owned the land next to Stony Point Prairie for generations. In fact, the Burns’ tract originally belonged to John’s great uncle. John says he recalls hearing prairie-chickens on their land when he was a boy.

Chickens Approve

It’s been five years since Kyle invited John to graze cattle on Stony Point in exchange for adding his half-section to the area’s patch-burn grazing regime. Their partnership brought Stony Point’s prairie-chicken habitat to more than 1,280 acres. Quail have increased dramatically, and prairie-chickens have been seen on both the public and private tracts at Stony Point since the agreement was forged.

Neighbors have reported seeing a pair of prairie-chickens on John’s land for the first time in more than a decade. In 2007, five males boomed on the public portion of the landscape for the first time in several years, and they’ve been back every year since.

“We’ve increased the prairie-chicken population in this neighborhood by 200 percent,” Kyle says with a laugh.

Turning serious, he points to a ridge running along the south edge of the Burns’ property. “Chickens like to boom on high, open places,” he says. “I’m almost positive that ridge was a booming ground historically. If we can get boomers back on that ridge, I will consider our work here a success.”

The Long View

By all accounts, Missouri has about 400 prairie-chickens left. These rare birds have large home ranges that overlap protected prairies and working

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