Monthly Archives: March 2013

New Report on Conservation Compliance Released

According to a new report released last month by former USDA Deputy Secretary Jim Moseley, over the last 25 years, one of the least-publicized farmland conservation efforts has actually been one of the most effective. The report, entitled Conservation Compliance: A 25-Year Legacy of Stewardship, explains how conservation compliance, which has historically required farmers to implement conservation measures in return for federally funded farm support, helped save millions of wetland acres while keeping billions of tons of soil on farms. As a result, millions of marginal, erosion-prone lands have remained healthy and productive.

            “Few conservation programs can boast the success rate of conservation compliance,” said Moseley, who served as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2001 to 2005. “This program has helped farmers save 295 million tons of soil per year and kept an estimated 1.5 million to 3.3 million acres of vulnerable wetlands from being drained. The results of this compact between farmers and taxpayers have been astounding.”

            The report urges Congress to reattach conservation compliance to crop insurance premium assistance in the next farm bill reauthorization.  As federal farm policy is updated, it is increasingly likely that some commodity programs will be phased out in favor of a strengthened crop insurance program that is becoming the core component of the farm safety net. Therefore, according to Moseley, it seems essential that conservation compliance also be updated to apply to the crop insurance premium assistance.

            Visit to download the full report.

Pasture & Range Evaluation & Recovery Workshop Set for First Week of April

Cattlemen across much of Kansas are in a quandary. As grass managers, they are asking themselves how many cattle will their ranges and pastures support after twenty to thirty months of drought. What steps can be taken to protect the grazing resources while maintaining enough cattle numbers to be financially viable? Will we get enough runoff to fill the ponds?

            The Kansas Rural Center (KRC) and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have teamed up to lead producers on four “pasture walks” during the first week of April to help graziers evaluate the impacts drought has had on pasture conditions and to plan grazing strategies for the coming season.

            Each session will begin at 1:30 PM and will last 2 to 3 hours. A NRCS rangeland management specialist will lead the sessions. The schedule of the pasture walk events is:

            April 1-Pottawatomie County with Dennis Schwant as host, located from Blaine, Ks. 2.8 miles east on Hwy 16 and 1.8 miles south on 

Clear Creek Road

 with Tim Miller as session leader.

            April 2-Reno County with Norman and Cindy Roth as hosts at intersection of Hwy 50 and 

Avery Road

 one mile north of Plevna with Dusty Tacha as session leader.

            April 3-McPherson County with Roger Koehn as host at 22nd Ave and Smokey Valley Road (4.5 miles east of I-135 on SMV Rd) with Doug Spencer as session leader.

            April 4-Coffey County with David and Jan Kraft as hosts at their ranch 2 miles west of Gridley with David as the session leader.

            Evaluation of plant composition and vigor will be a focus of each session along with soil moisture conditions as a basis for planning grazing strategies through the 2013 growing season. Alternate forages and condition of livestock water supplies will also be discussed.

            As NRCS State Rangeland Management Specialist, David Kraft emphasizes to producers that “the beginning of the growing season in early April is one of the critical dates to make stocking adjustments that will maintain or improve your native pastures during the ongoing stress of drought conditions.” He advises that participants should be prepared to be in the field for hands-on exercises.

            For additional information contact Dale Kirkham at 620/344-0202 (email [email protected]) or the KRC website or the KRC office at 785-873-3431.

Protect Our Prairies Act reintroduced in the House

Last month, Representatives Noem (R-SD) and Walz (D-MN) introduced legislation to protect America’s remaining native grasslands through a national sodsaver provision. The Protect Our Prairies Act (HR 686), which has the support of nine bipartisan co-sponsors, is common-sense legislation that would reduce taxpayer-funded incentives to destroy vital grassland resources.

            In a statement that NWF released to the press about the bill, Aviva Glaser, Legislative Representative for Agriculture Policy at National Wildlife Federation, said: “America is at risk of losing one our most iconic ecosystems. Native prairies, along with the wildlife that are dependent upon them, are disappearing at an alarming rate. The Protect Our Prairies Act will help protect this vital resource by promoting management practices that conserve native grasslands…With this legislation we can protect vital habitat for declining wildlife and save taxpayer dollars while ensuring that some of the riskiest land for crop production is kept in grazing use. It is critical that the House Agriculture Committee include this national sodsaver provision in the 2013 Farm Bill.”

            Contact your representative and ask them to co-sponsor this important cost-saving and important habitat-saving legislation.


           Photo credit:
This year the National Wildlife Federation sponsored a roundtable discussion on “Engaging Millennials in the Conservation Movement” at their annual national meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Kassie Rohrbach, a Millennial herself, presided over the roundtable discussion. The roundtable recognized the growing value that Millennials could have on advancing the goals of wildlife conservation. Eighty three million Millennials, born roughly between 1978 and 1996, are highly motivated to make impacts in society in one way or another.  They are adept with electronic social media and communicate well over social networking sites. Their large numbers could sway politicians to make better decisions compatible with wildlife conservation. The Kansas Wildlife Federation is currently designing ways for Millennials to exert an impact on wildlife conservation in Kansas. Meanwhile, if you want to visit Kassie Rohrbach’s Archive for her posts as the NWF’s Fair Climate Network Manager, check it out at

Eight Individuals Indicted in Paddlefish-poaching Investigation

A multi-year investigation for paddlefish poachers spans nine states, including Kansas

Agents with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently conducted a multi-year, undercover investigation that resulted in more than 100 suspects spanning nine states. The investigation, which ran during the spring 2011 and spring 2012 Missouri paddlefish seasons, also included the indictment of eight individuals for federal crimes involving the illegal trafficking of paddlefish and their eggs for use as caviar.

“The national and international popularity of Missouri paddlefish eggs as a source of caviar has grown dramatically in recent years,” said MDC protection chief Larry Yamnitz. “This is a result of European sources of caviar having declined from overfishing of the Caspian Sea’s once plentiful and lucrative beluga sturgeon, another species of fish known for its caviar.”

The MDC states that the section of the Osage River running along Warsaw in BentonCounty is a paddlefish hot spot because it is blocked upstream by Truman Dam. When spawning paddlefish reach the dam, their route is blocked, increasing both their numbers as well as anglers’ chances of snagging them. This concentration of paddlefish, which is inevitably filled with egg-laden females, also makes Warsaw a prime location for poachers looking to obtain the fish eggs for sale in illegal caviar markets. Paddlefish may only be snagged during the snagging season, March 15-April 30. It is illegal to sell the eggs.

According to MDC, about 20 pounds of eggs or more can be harvested from a large female paddlefish. Retail prices for paddlefish caviar vary, but current common retail price is about $35 per ounce.

“A common black-market price is about $13 an ounce,” Yamnitz said. “A single large female paddlefish with about 20 pounds of eggs is carrying about $4,000 worth of potential caviar for black market sales.”

On March 13 and 14, 85 conservation agents from MDC, 40 special agents from USWFS, and wildlife officers from other states issued citations, executed arrest warrants, conducted interviews and gathered additional information regarding the investigation. Other states involved were ColoradoIllinoisKansasMinnesotaNew JerseyOregonPennsylvania, and South Carolina.

For more information, visit

KDWPT Video Features Walleye Production Process

Video takes viewers along on walleye egg-taking journey

“Walleye For Tomorrow,” a 15-minute video produced by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT), shows each step in the process of producing walleye forKansas lakes. Populations of this popular sport fish in Kansas lakes depend on the artificial spawning program that produces millions of walleye for stocking each spring.

The full-length video, which has only recently been digitized and posted for viewing on KDWPT’s website, is a must-watch for any dedicated Kansas walleye angler.

The video can be seen at

Products associated with bee deaths lethal to birds & wildlife

Jason Plautz

E&E reporter

A widely used class of pesticides linked to widespread bee deaths also poses a health threat to birds, aquatic creatures and other wildlife, according to a report out March 19.

Public health advocates and environmentalists have long targeted neonicotinoids, saying they are at least partially responsible for the deaths of roughly one-third of the country’s bees each year since 2006. But the new report, commissioned by the American Bird Conservancy, says the insecticides are also lethal to birds and could affect entire ecosystems, including aquatic systems.

In light of the findings, the ABC is calling on U.S. EPA to ban the use of neonicotinoids in seed treatments and suspend their application until an independent review can be completed.

“It is clear that these chemicals have the potential to affect entire food chains,” said report co-author Cynthia Palmer, pesticides program manager for ABC. “The environmental persistence of the neonicotinoids, their propensity for runoff and for groundwater infiltration, and their cumulative and largely irreversible mode of action in invertebrates raise significant environmental concerns.”

A previous request to ban clothianidin, a neonicotinoid pesticide, was rejected by EPA in July (Greenwire, July 25, 2012). And earlier this month, a vote to ban the pesticides by the European Union failed.

The report, written by environmental toxicologist Pierre Mineau, reviewed more than 200 existing studies, including industry research. The evidence, Mineau said, showed that neonicotinoids can prove more toxic to birds in lower doses than the pesticides they were designed to replace.

A single corn kernel coated with one of the pesticides would be enough to kill a songbird, the report warned, and smaller doses were associated with reproductive and neurological problems.

EPA, said Mineau, has underestimated the toxicity of the chemicals in birds by a factor of anywhere from 1.5 to 10 times depending on the specific insecticide and bird species. The agency also ought to do more to pressure registrants to help diagnose affected populations, he said.

“It is astonishing that EPA would allow a pesticide to be used in hundreds of products without ever requiring the registrant to develop the tools needed to diagnose poisoned wildlife,” Mineau said.

The report also found contamination levels in surface- and ground-level water systems that were already above the threshold associated with death in aquatic invertebrates. Levels were high enough in areas like California and the Canadian prairies to suggest there could be an impact on the entire aquatic food chain, eventually reaching populations like birds and amphibians.

That, said Mineau, should add more backing to the push to take neonicotinoids out of use, at least until more research is done.

“We’re not saying these impacts are more important than bees, but this is an added piece of the puzzle,” Mineau said at a news conference today.

In a statement, CropLife America, an agribusiness group, said that while “it is critical to protect bird population levels and support biodiversity,” the link between insecticides and any decline in bird populations is “unfounded.”

“CLA is disappointed that the report, which has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, paints a flawed picture of the Environmental Protection Agency’s risk assessment of crop protection products, industry stewardship and agriculture as a whole,” said Mike Leggett, senior director of environmental policy for CropLife America.

“Our industry continues to conduct studies directed at ensuring that the crop protection products available to farmers can be used safely and will effectively help growers provide nutritious food for communities around the world,” Leggett said.

Neonicotinoids were developed in the 1990s to replace harmful organophosphate pesticides and are now widely used on crops including corn and soy and in some home-gardening products.

Public health advocates say there’s now evidence that the pesticides were rushed to market without proper assessment and are calling for them to be restricted. The bee die-offs have captured headlines, since up to one-third of the U.S. diet depends on insect pollinators.

The Department of Agriculture has conducted several studies on the bee deaths and has said there is no single cause, including pesticides (Greenwire, April 24, 2012). EPA has said it will complete a review the safety of neonicotinoids for honeybees in 2018.

But speaking this morning, Peter Jenkins of the Center for Food Safety said that was “clearly not enough” and called on Congress to “hold EPA’s feet to the fire” by threatening to suspend the use of the product or amend the farm bill to restrict its use. Jenkins also said that EPA should also be pressured to speed up its safety reviews and that its review process for chemicals should be reformed.

Click here to read the report.

Today is World Water Day

       World Water Day Has Been Observed Every March 22nd since 1993.

World Water Day was conceived to draw attention to the growing importance of fresh water and the sustainable use of water resources. Each year a new aspect of water is highlighted. For 2013, the emphasis is “International Year of Water Cooperation”. It has been estimated that 780 million people are currently without safe water. But there are solutions. Visit to find out what you can do.

Phil Taunton Awarded Volunteer of the Year distinction

The National Wildlife Federation has awarded Phil Taunton it prestigious Volunteer of the Year award for 2012 for his indefatigable efforts to enlighten people about the importance of wildlife conservation in their lives. Phil is pictured here with Larry Schweiger (right) & Steve Allinger (left). He is well known for hosting the popular “What’s In Outdoors” radio show on KVOE in Emporia. His endless efforts have involved anti-poaching legislation and his spearheading the immensely popular and important publication “Last Child on the Prairie: A Directory for Parents and Teachers for Returning Children to the Outdoors”. Phil is also on the board of directors of the Kansas Wildlife Federation.

Burn Advisory

        Farm Service Agency & Natural Resources Conservation Service
                                             Issue Burn Advisory

Adrian J. Polansky, State Executive Director of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Eric B. Banks, State Conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Kansas have issued a joint burn advisory.

            Kansas landowners and operators enrolled in Conservation Reserve Program contracts with prescribed burns planned or scheduled to be completed should be aware that persistent drought conditions across Kansasare creating conditions unsuitable for completing burns.  Dry soil conditions, wind speeds, low relative humidity, continued drought, and current weather are all ongoing factors that are producing unsafe conditions for burns and will produce results outside the defined objectives for which the practice is planned.

            Areas designated as D1 or higher on the U.S. Drought monitor map or where similar conditions exist should not be completing a prescribed burning practice.  U.S. Drought Monitor can be located on the internet at:  Completing a burn under these conditions may increase the potential for unfavorable results such as severe wind erosion or place personal property or safety at risk. 

            Prescribed burning is an important component in most plant communities across Kansas.   Equally as important as the need for continued prescribed burning activities is the message of use only during safe and predictable climatic conditions.  

            Conservation Reserve Program participants should contact their local USDA Service Center and visit with employees at the FSA or the NRCS office to discuss modifying the time frame for completing the planned prescribed burn practice. Also, Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program Participants should contact their local NRCS office to discuss planned prescribed burns.