Nebraska is on the front lines of an eastern redcedar invasion as illustrated by this photo from the Loess Canyons area. Photo by Dirac Twidwell, UNL
This Chicken Challenge focuses on conifer trees, which are causing a cascade of negative impacts to grassland and sagebrush range across the West. Try the quiz and see what you know about these impacts.
- “Conifer” refers to any plant that produces cones. Some conifers, like pine trees, have easily recognizable cones. Others, like the Pacific Yew, have a fleshy cone that looks like fruit and yet others, like juniper trees, have cones that look like berries. The word conifer is a compound of the Latin words for “cone” (conus) and “to bear” (ferre) and directly translates as: “the one that bears cones.”
- Most conifers have needles for leaves, but not all conifers keep their needles year-round. For example, the bald cypress which grows in southeastern swamps loses its needles each winter and tamarack or larch trees have needles that turn a golden yellow in the autumn before dropping to the ground.
- Conifer trees like pinyon pine, juniper, and mesquite have always been present on sagebrush and grassland landscapes but have been expanding into areas where they didn’t historically grow over the last 150 years.
Lesser prairie-chickens on a lek, with ranch operations visible in background. Laura Erickson photo.
LPCI’s work is focused on private lands – working ranches and farms across the southern Great Plains. These lands are critical to lesser prairie-chickens and to the hundreds of other species that rely on healthy grasslands. Privately owned ranches also help maintain open spaces, often bordering and operated in common with public lands. Test your knowledge of ranching with this Chicken Challenge.
- Agriculture is one of the nation’s largest employer with more than 23 million jobs involved.
- Raising beef cattle is the single largest segment of American agriculture.
- U.S. ranchers produce 18% of the world’s beef with only 8% of the world’s cattle.
- 85% of the land where cattle graze is not suitable for raising crops, thus grazing animals on this land increases the amount of food produced.
- All “cows” are female. The males are called bulls or steers.
- Water is precious in the arid West. Only 2% of the West is considered wet habitat. Of that, more than 75% is on private land.
- The Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative has worked with more than 800 landowners to voluntarily conserve more than 1.6 million acres of land.