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JWM: CRP critical for prairie-chickens — but not by itself

Cara J

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On the plains of western Kansas, Conservation Reserve Program lands, where crops have been replaced by native grasses, have proved crucial to lesser prairie-chickens (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus). The threatened birds have established themselves in a part of the state where they weren’t historically known — and one of the few places of the country where their numbers are increasing — using these grasslands set aside for environmental benefits. But the birds mostly use CRP lands during nesting and the nonbreeding season, researchers found, suggesting that a mosaic of grasslands across a broader landscape is necessary for the birds’ success. “If you establish a CRP field in the middle of a crop field landscape, that’s not really going to do very much for lesser prairie-chickens,” said TWS member Dan Sullins, a postdoctoral research associate with the Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Kansas State University and lead author of the paper in the Journal of Wildlife Management. “But if you establish a CRP field next to it a large remaining tract of native grasslands, it can really provide important habitat.” The Conservation Reserve Program was created in 1985 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to encourage farmers to avoid planting [...]

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