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Conference proceedings show partnerships key to protecting tallgrass prairies

Tuesday, March 18, 2014



MANHATTAN — America's iconic prairies continue to be one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world but key opportunities exist to protect and restore them.

Partnerships between ranchers, conservationists and researchers are important to safeguarding native prairie, according to the Proceedings of the second Biennial Conference on the Conservation of America's Grasslands,recently released by the National Wildlife Federation and Kansas State University. They are available at available at http://bit.ly/PIyDKo.

The conference America's Grasslands: The Future of Grasslands in a Changing Landscape was Aug. 12-14, 2013, in Manhattan. The conference brought together around 225 biologists, policy experts, ranchers, federal and state agency staff, graduate students and conservationists to discuss the future of American grasslands, the wildlife that depend on them and ways to work together to conserve these critical areas for the future. The event included more than 80 speakers and poster presentations.

The conference proceedings provide an open access, high-quality source of information on 13 topics related to grassland conservation, including grazing and grasslands, grasslands and wildlife, landscape planning and management for grassland conservation, energy development and federal policy.

"The future of grasslands is truly at stake," said John Briggs, director of the university's Konza Prairie Biological Station, professor of biology and conference co-chair. "However, we have a unique opportunity to work with ranchers to conserve grasslands and to use scientific principles to better manage our existing grasslands."

One of the highlights of the conference was the emphasis on finding innovating ways to create economic and working land opportunities for grasslands and livestock producers. Conference presenters pointed to market drivers, carbon offsets, contract grazing and federal policy tools as potential ways to help create economic incentives to keep grasslands in grazing.

"Grasslands provide habitat for wildlife, sequester carbon from the atmosphere, provide clean water benefits and help conserve healthy soil," said Aviva Glaser, agriculture policy specialist at the National Wildlife Federation and co-chair of the event. "We must continue to create economic incentives to help landowners to protect and restore our remaining grasslands."