Maintaining Your Playa Photo by Brittany Smith

Maintaining Your Playa

A restored, healthy playa — that has excess sediment removed and water redirected into the playa, and is protected by a vegetative buffer — will function effectively; however, there are management activities which can be used to help maintain and improve the playa.

Recreational Management and Stewardship

Wet playas attract thousands of waterfowl and shorebirds which provides opportunities for local hunting and birdwatching. They are also a living laboratory where people can learn about wetlands, geology, and the history of the region. Maintaining playas for recreation can provide financial incentives as well as a long-term legacy for future generations.

Grazing Management

Cattle grazing around a playa. Photo by Brian Slobe.
Cattle grazing around a playa. Photo by Brian Slobe.

Grazing has always been an important component of the prairie landscape, and it can be used to manage the vegetation in playa buffers and basins. This can provide additional forage for livestock, especially during drought when the only moisture supporting plant life is often found within a playa, as well as better wildlife habitat. Prescribed grazing, along with prescribed fire as appropriate, will help maintain both the playa and surrounding uplands in the best condition for both cattle and wildlife.

While playas can be part of a grazing system, utilization rates should be carefully planned and monitored so the vegetation height within the buffer can continue to effectively trap sediment from reaching the playa basin. Playas within cropland can also be grazed as part of an effort to utilize crop residues for forage during the grass-dormant season.

When playas are bisected by roads, there is often flooding. Photo by Miruh Hamend.
When playas are bisected by roads, there is often flooding. Photo by Miruh Hamend.

Future Modifications

Because water is the primary driver influencing most natural functions in playas, any future modifications within the catchment area — such as road maintenance, terrace rebuilds, and ditch clean outs — may impact playa health and need to be carefully planned with that in mind.

Assistance Programs

There are state and federal programs that can help landowners incorporate these goals into their playa management plan. Some programs offer financial incentives for public access on private lands and others offer long-term or permanent easements, ensuring the landowner’s conservation values are carried forward. To learn about available playa conservation programs and find a local expert to discuss options, contact us.