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Published on: Jul. 21, 2010

livestock in native grasses

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Controlled Burns

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farms. Restoring boomers to Stony Point—and a sustainable population of at least 3,000 birds in the state—depends on land management practices that create suitable habitat and pay their way across our prairie landscapes. Innovative approaches that fit local circumstances, like the partnership between John Kremp and the Department at Stony Point Conservation Area, are a step in the right direction.

Partners in Flight

Partners in Flight is a cooperative effort between federal, state and local government agencies, philanthropic foundations, professional organizations, conservation groups, industry, the academic community and private individuals. Its mission is to help species at risk, keep common birds common and offer voluntary partnerships for birds, habitats and people. The Conservation Department approved the Partners in Flight’s recommendations for recovery of the greater prairie-chicken in Missouri in 2006.

The Partners in Flight Grassland Bird Conservation Area Model recommends management of open, grassland-dominated landscapes of at least 10,000 acres, along with the following criteria:

  • Each 10,000-acre landscape should contain a well-managed, protected core habitat of at least 2,000 acres.
  • An additional 2,000 acres of well-managed grasslands, at least half of which are tracts larger than 100 acres, should complement the core.
  • Woody cover should be less than 1 percent within the core and less than 5 percent throughout the landscape.

Six such landscapes are in Missouri (see map). Recovery will be considered accomplished when a Missouri population totaling at least 3,000 birds, with no fewer than 200 individuals on any one of the six target landscapes, persists for 10 years. Long-term goals of Partners in Flight include delisting the greater prairie-chicken as endangered in Missouri.

Kansas Prairie-Chickens Take Hold in St. Clair

Efforts to reestablish a breeding population of greater prairie-chickens in St. Clair County are starting to show signs of success. In the spring of 2008, the Conservation Department trapped 45 male prairie-chickens in the Smoky Hills region of Kansas and brought them back to be released at Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie near El Dorado Springs. Prairie-chicken hens and chicks from Kansas arrived at Wah’Kon-Tah the following August. Conservation Department workers repeated the process in 2009 and are well into the third cycle of the five-year habitat-use study, which is part of Missouri’s Greater Prairie-Chicken Recovery Plan. So far, they have released 200 prairie-chickens. The adults—148 in all—have been fitted with radio transmitters so biologists can track their movements and survival. Approximately one-fourth of the translocated birds remain alive on Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie and other nearby grasslands. A few have moved to Taberville Prairie 10 miles north of Wah’Kon-Tah or joined a small natural remnant prairie-chicken population between El Dorado Springs and Nevada. Some males have returned to the booming ground established on Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie in 2009. These are positive indications that initial translocation efforts are proving successful and that there may have been reproduction on Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie last year.

Get Involved

To learn more about prairie-chicken recovery efforts, go to www.MissouriConservation.org/17070. Read Conservationist stories about prairie-chickens at www.MissouriConservation.org/19197 and www.MissouriConservation.org/3987.

Consider joining a Missouri Grasslands Coalition group, which offers opportunities for everyone from birdwatchers to hunters to farmers.

Missouri has six Grassland Conservation Opportunity Areas. If you have a quarter-section or more of native prairie in one of them and would like to discuss the feasibility of a cooperative public-private patch-burn grazing regime, contact your closest regional office.

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