MEDICINE LODGE Property owners in southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma are banding together in a bid to entice more prairie chickens to the area and shore up the region's economy.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently approved a $100,000 grant to the Comanche Pool Prairie Resource Foundation to help restore open prairie habitat for lesser prairie chickens, a game bird whose populations have been declining in the area.
The Comanche Pool represents 7,000 property owners in southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma. Those property owners can apply for portions of the grant to help pay for cedar tree removal, either by cutting them down or burning them.
The foliage of the cedar trees is so dense and their bases so wide that they block rain from reaching the soil, making the habitat less attractive to the prairie chickens.
"Cedar trees take up a tremendous amount of water," said Dwayne Rice, state range-land management specialist at the Salina Natural Resource Conservation Service office. "And a half-inch rain will never reach the ground under a cedar tree."
This ends up affecting spring flows because it keeps water from reaching the ground.