Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Kansas

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Kansas has been driven by two guiding beliefs. The first is recognizing the value of our native plant communities, not only for their biological diversity, but also their sustainability and their productivity. The second has been to build into the Partners Program the flexibility necessary to make it accommodate the needs of both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the private landowner/producer.

The Kansas Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program has utilized this philosophy to voluntarily assist private landowners to restore, enhance, and develop thousands of acres of highly functional wetland, grassland, and woodland habitats throughout the state. Since 1990, the Partners Program has partnered with over 500 Kansas landowners. The number of new requests for assistance continues to accelerate.

Gail Combs, Kansas farmer and Partners cooperator, says this about the Kansas Partners Program, "This program does so much good and works so well with me as an agricultural producer and an environmentalist, that it hardly seems possible that a government program could work this well."

Kansas Activities

  • Prairie restoration
  • Prairie enhancement
  • Riparian restoration
  • Riparian enhancement
  • Wetland restoration
  • Wetland creation
  • Bottomland hardwoods
  • Oxbow restoration
  • Environmental education

Technical Assistance

Project activities in western Kansas are about 75% upland work and 25% wetland work.

  • Upland sites, in most cases, are enhanced with the implementation of a grazing management system that follows the general guidelines of "take half, leave half". This can be in the form of rotational grazing, enhancing cattle distribution with additional fence and watering sites, or by managing the timing of grazing to allow regrowth of grasses. Invading woody species are removed or controlled in some manner if deemed a problem. The conservation and enhancement of native prairie is given top priority.
  • The majority of the wetland sites are playa lake restorations and wetland creations. Playa lakes are restored by taking them out of production and planting a grass filterstrip buffer around the playa to reduce sedimentation and provide wildlife habitat. Wetland creations are accomplished with the construction of lowhead dams 3 to 4 feet in height and the installation of in-line water control structures. A typical lowhead dam would measure 12 feet wide on the top with 10 to 1 slopes, with the top of the structure serving as the spillway. Wetlands are fenced if the area is being grazed.

In eastern Kansas, conservation of existing tallgrass prairie is a top priority. This may include developing grazing systems and adjusting grazing rates on native prairie, cross-fencing, water developments, recommendations of burn frequency and timing, control of woody vegetation through clipping or burning, and recommendations of herbicide applications for noxious plant control.

  • In cropland areas, native grasslands are restored by no-till drilling native grasses at lower seeding rates and native forbs at higher seeding rates.
  • Wetland restoration of croplands is accomplished by constructing ditch plugs, low berms, shallow depressions and installing water control structures.
  • Riparian protection and restoration is accomplished through cross-fencing, fencing of riparnan areas and re-vegetation with native plant communities (native grasses and forbs or bottomland hardwoods through direct seeding).

The cost share ratios range from 10% to 90% and are figured on a site-by-site basis. Factors controlling cost share are: (1) length of agreement, (2) total acres, and (3) wildlife and environmental benefits of the project.

Habitats of Special Concern
The tallgrass prairie is considered to be North America’s most altered biome. Less than 4% of this globally unique grassland remains intact. The State of Kansas harbors 80% of the remaining North American tallgrass prairie.
\More than 700 plant species compose this unique plant community. Over 250 bird species, 60 species of mammals, 35 species of reptiles, amphibians, and countless species of insects, all form this rich tapestry of life that we call the tallgrass prairie.

Tallgrass Legacy Alliance
The Kansas Partners Program has made the tallgrass prairie one of its top priorities. In April 1999, the Partners Program helped to initiate an alliance of individuals and organizations called the Tallgrass Legacy Alliance.

The mission of the Tallgrass Legacy Alliance is to preserve, enhance, and restore the tallgrass prairie. This will be accomplished through educational and financial partnerships with private landowners, operators, and private and public entities, in a manner that will strengthen and improve the economic, social, and cultural foundations of the region.

Tom Moxley, rancher and President of the Tallgrass Legacy Alliance says, "The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners Program is working on the ground for producers and the environment in the State of Kansas."

Conservation Strategies

Presently, a variety of issues threaten the stability of the region. Some of these are as follows:

  • Invasive species
  • Fragmentation
  • Lack of state and federal incentives to manage prairies in a sustainable manner
  • Decline in agricultural profitability
  • Loss of native plant and animal diversity
  • Lack of public understanding of the value of native prairies

Conservation Strategies

  • Native Prairies
    • The cornerstone of the Kansas Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is the recognition that in order to save the prairies, we must first keep the ranching community healthy and on the landscape. This premise is facilitated by working through producer organizations such as the Kansas Livestock Association, the Kansas Farm Bureau, and numerous other state, federal, and private partnerships.
    • The Kansas Partners Program works hand in hand with private landowners to tailor conservation projects to truly fit the needs of the individual producer and the needs of the environment.
    • As an example, invasive species control benefits both ranch profitability and biological diversity. The two together generate stability. Assistance with improved grazing strategies can lead to improved profit margin and greatly improved habitat for a large number of prairie species, such as the lesser and greater prairie chicken.
    • In general, native prairie restoration and enhancement projects average $50 per acre to complete.
  • Prairie Streams
    • Protecting and enhancing streamside corridors improves fish and wildlife habitats and water quality by limiting livestock access. Riparian restoration activities cost about $6,000 per mile of stream.
  • Wetlands
    • Wetland restorations provide economic opportunities in the form of recreational use and, at the same time, offer tremendous water quality and trust species benefits for society as a whole. A "win-win" project is the definition of success for the Kansas Partners Program.  The cost of wetland restorations in Kansas is currently estimated at $400 per acre.


Native prairie is our number one priority. Tallgrass prairie is considered to be the most altered biome in North America, making it a habitat type of concern. Grassland nesting birds are the fastest declining guild of birds in North America today. Preservation efforts of the prairie ecosystem will be through educational and financial alliances/partnerships, on-the-ground grassland management assistance and grassland easement programs.

Playa lakes, other wetlands and riparian areas are the second priority of the Kansas Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program conservation efforts. Wetlands and riparian areas have been significantly altered in Kansas, especially playas, oxbows and saline wetlands which are considered habitats of special concern.

Our long term goal is to restore and enhance wildlife habitat for migratory birds, waterfowl, and threatened and endangered species. It is our goal to prevent further listing of plant and animal species within the state and to show positive gains in terms of acres preserved or restored relative to all habitats of concern.

Contact Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Kansas

Mike Disney
Kansas Partners for Fish and Wildlife State Coordinator
2609 Anderson Ave.
Manhattan, Kansas  66502
Phone: (785) 539-3474 X 107
Fax: (785) 770-9920


Service Area

Statewide service provider in:
  • Kansas

Office Locaters

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