The Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative connects rural landowners with technical and financial assistance to identify and carry out conservation practices that benefit prairie-chickens while maintaining ranch sustainability. The success of our efforts hinges on our field staff members, who work one-on-one with landowners. Meet our newest field staffer, Marina Osier.
“We can have good habitat and good rangeland production—they go hand in hand.” That’s the bottom line for Marina Osier, wildlife biologist with the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative’s Strategic Watershed Action Team (SWAT).
Osier is the newest member of LPCI ‘s field staff team, based in Lamar, Colorado, on the western edge of the lesser prairie-chicken’s range. Like her teammates in other parts of the lesser prairie-chicken’s range, she’s an essential part of LPCI’s mission to conserve and increase lesser prairie-chicken populations by promoting the health of grazing lands and supporting the long-term sustainability of agricultural operations.
With some 95% of all of lesser prairie-chicken habitat in private hands, the future of this uncommon prairie grouse depends on careful stewardship by private landowners. Fortunately, Osier notes, the conservation practices that benefit prairie-chickens also benefit the rural agricultural producers—ranchers and farmers—who own much of that private land.
“People want to help the lesser prairie-chicken and other wildlife,” she says. “They just don’t want to be locked into something they don’t want to do long-term.” Osier works with interested landowners to explore the range of voluntary conservation assistance available to them and identify programs that will work best for their particular situation.
Part of her work, Osier says, is to clear up misconceptions about the assistance programs. “Some people think we’re going to put chickens on their land and make them take the cows off.”
When a landowner opts to take part in an LPCI technical and financial assistance program and their land meets the criteria for participation, one of the first things Osier does is to assess the diversity, abundance, and health of the ranch’s grassland habitat.
She uses this information to create a conservation plan tailored to the rancher’s goals—one that maximizes benefits to both prairie-chicken and livestock. The plan identifies management practices—like prescribed grazing, woody invasives removal, drought contingency planning, and water system improvements—that help build the health and resiliency of the land. LPCI financial assistance helps ranchers carry out those often-costly management practices.
“I love working with landowners, hearing their stories, and hearing the history they have with the land,” says Osier. “My aim is to find common ground, through actions that preserve their way of life while preserving habitat.”
Osier’s interest in prairie wildlife has its roots in the Iowa soil of her childhood. “My dad was very interested in wildlife, and we’d talk about the birds, trees, and animals,” Osier says.
After graduating from Iowa State University with a forestry degree, she got a summer job looking at habitat for greater prairie-chickens. “I hadn’t heard of prairie-chickens before that job!”
Not long after Osier completed her master’s degree in Georgia, the LPCI SWAT position opened in Lamar, shifting Osier’s focus to the lesser prairie-chicken. In her new role, Osier aims to build connection and conversation with area landowners. “I want to talk with them about chickens—why they’re worth conserving, and how the range improvements that help chickens help their ranch’s productivity.”
Great to have you on the LPCI team, Marina!