The key driver and one of our core missions with Playa Lake Farm & Ranch is to restore, develop, enhance, and improve wildlife habitat. Our goal is to continually execute habitat management and development projects around our playa lakes and upland grasslands and set an example for other landowners to follow.
Below is an example of one of our projects and our goals for habitat restoration and enhancement for the benefit of dove, waterfowl, upland birds, deer, and other wildlife. We encourage anyone interested in Wildlife Habitat Management to join our efforts, learn, and contribute to our habitat projects at Playa Lake Farm & Ranch.
Before Habitat Improvement Efforts
This is an example of one of our habitat projects on a Playa Lake farm that had years of being 100% farmed without any efforts to conserve or sustain the operational value of the land or the playa lake itself.
The farm had several abandoned water wells, a lot of junk that needed to be cleaned up, a non-functioning orchard, infrastructure that needed improvements to be functional, and a playa lake that had been manipulated in the past for irrigation and didn't have a grass buffer to reduce silt run off and provide wildlife habitat.
There was little wildlife use of the property other than in wet years and even then on a limited basis due to the lack of vegetation and other food in and around the playa lake habitat.
Conservation, Restoration, & Development Plan
This is an example of the Conservation & Development Plan we initiated for this 160 acre property. Our efforts targeted the benefit of upland and grassland birds, dove, waterfowl, mule deer, and turkey.
First, we clean up all the junk off the farm through hauling off loads for scrap metal or just to the local dump-grounds. We established a grass buffer using native grass species in and around the playa lake and surrounding uplands restoring playa lake habitat and planted a pollinator strip dividing the grasslands from the cultivated grounds.
We made use of the three abandoned wells through working over the wellbores and adding new pumps, tying all the wells together with pipelines, and then installed approximately a highly efficient drip irrigated system on approximately 67 acres of cropland.
We brought in a bulldozer and cleaned up the tailwater pit that had been used for previous irrigation and made it into a moist soil management unit, or "duck pond" and ran a pipeline from our drip system directly to this with gated pipe that can be used to irrigate and flood the moist soil impoundment and added a duck blind. We are slowly cleaning up the orchard and returning it to cultivation and pollinator habitat and have plans to add woody shrubs to the upland grasslands and a shelter belt or grouping of trees.
Management Post Implementation
After the initial implementation of our Conservation, Restoration, & Development Plan we immediately began seeing the benefits of our efforts and have switched from an active restoration and development mindset to an on-going management and improvement methodology. The Playa Lake Habitat that naturally came back was astonishing, a true desert oasis in the plains - a green explosion with 100,000's of plants and animals.
The grass we planted as a playa lake buffer and in the uplands is full of vegetation that is frequently used by many different species including dove, waterfowl, pheasant, bobwhite quail, turkey, and mule deer which were species we were originally targeting with the plan. Instead of having a marginal farming operation on 160 acres of dryland, we now have a property that is balanced for wildlife and production with playa lake habitat and highly efficient irrigated land.
Our drip irrigated land makes a higher yield from only 67 acres than the entire 160 produced in prior years. We have approximately 93 acres of premium wildlife habitat with a close concentration of food, water, and cover making this property considerably more valuable from a production and recreational standpoint demonstrating our values at Playa Lake Farm and Ranch, which is a sustainable balance between production and conservation for the benefit of future generations. We have already enjoyed many great memories with families and friends on this property and have made a great business relationship through a farming partnership as well.