In June, PLJV completed a set of Playa Decision Support Tools (DSTs) for Kansas that are part of a larger Playa Decision Support System (DSS) being developed for the entire PLJV region. Using the best available spatial data and science on playa ecology, the Playa DSS is designed to prioritize individual playas according to their estimated ecological value and identify clusters of playas that likely have higher value functioning as a group.
“Our goal is to guide conservation toward and negative impacts away from the most ecologically valuable playas,” explains PLJV Conservation Policy Director Barth Crouch. “The system prioritizes individual playas based on land-use activity, such as enrollment in Farm Bill programs or avoidance of playas when siting a wind farm. In Kansas, the partners decided to focus on wind energy development in this first phase.”
“The Playa Decision Support System has the potential to be a very effective tool in assisting wind energy developers identify locations for Kansas wind farms while minimizing natural resource impacts,” said Tracy Streeter, Kansas Water Office Director.
“As we continue to work with the wind and transmission industries in the state, the Playa DSTs will provide solid information to help direct siting of these projects away from playas,” says The Nature Conservancy of Kansas Conservation Projects Coordinator Jim Hays. “This collaborative process has been all-inclusive, with beneficial input well received from all participants.”
In October 2011, a Kansas working group was formed to provide input into the design of the Playa DST for wind energy development. The group included representatives from Clean Line Energy, Ducks Unlimited, EDP Renewables (Horizon Wind Energy), Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, Kansas State University, Kansas Water Office, Natural Resources Conservation Service, University of Kansas, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Nature Conservancy.
When completed, the Playa DSS will provide three integrated tools for each state in the PLJV region:
- spatial data layers representing playas prioritized for different land-use activities (wind energy development, conservation program enrollment, and conservation easements and restoration programs), clusters of playas, and large isolated playas;
- PDF maps displaying the above data layers for every county in the PLJV region; and
- a User's Manual with written guidance on how to apply and interpret the data layers and maps.
As Kansas completes the process for each land-use activity, the data layers and maps will be made available on both the PLJV website and on the Kansas Natural Resource Planner. The second phase, which will create DSTs to help in the planning and implementation of outreach for Farm Bill conservation programs, will begin soon.
“The Playa Decision Support System will assist us in identifying which wetlands in the PLJV region to focus our conservation and preservation efforts on,” says Eric B. Banks, Kansas State Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service and a member of the PLJV management board. “It will expand knowledge at the local and state level, expand opportunities for landowners, and help protect this vital resource.”
“The Nature Conservancy of Kansas appreciates the opportunity to play a part in this important work and looks forward to being involved with the next phase of the process,” adds Hays.
The Playa Decision Support System is intended for use by multiple stakeholder groups—including natural resource professionals, land managers and developers—providing them with spatially explicit data, maps, and written guidance that can inform decisions that may impact playas and their associated wildlife.