Learn About Playas at Field Day in Hereford

You are invited to attend a Playa Field Day presented by Ogallala Commons on Wednesday, October 30, from 9:30am to 2:00pm in Hereford, Texas. The event will be held in the Hereford Civic Center at 1001 West 15th Street. Doors open at 9:00am for registration and refreshments.

Participants will have the opportunity to hear from an award-winning playa and aquifer conservationist, and a geologist well-versed in the formation of the Ogallala Aquifer. The field day will cover information about playa ecosystems, possibilities for restoration through the Texas Playa Conservation Initiative (TxPCI), a geological overview of the Ogallala Aquifer by Dr. Joseph Cepeda, professor in the Geology department at West Texas A&M University, and an exploration of how playas and grasslands support a rainfed perennial agriculture and communities on the Llano Estacado.

After an early lunch, a tour will depart to view a grazing-based grass farming operation on Dr. Chris Grotegut’s Tierra de Esperanza farms northwest of Dawn, TX. Dr. Grotegut, a recipient of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Lone Star Land Steward Award for his work with playas and stewarding the aquifer, will talk about how he’s putting vital conservation measures to work in his family’s farming and ranching operation.

“This field day allows us to see a transformation that many would not believe could ever happen,” notes Darryl Birkenfeld, Ogallala Commons Deputy Director.  “Since 2010, Dr. Grotegut and his family have been transitioning 11,000 acres of irrigated farmland back into native grasses that can sustain sheep and cattle production.  Their combination of healthy playas, the steady replacement of annuals by perennial plants, and the curtailment of irrigation has resulted in stabilization as well as an increase in the groundwater levels under Tierra de Eperanza Farms.  Though the work has been advancing for over a decade, this year’s heavy rains in May and June have improved and accelerated the process.”

Playas are shallow, rain-fed wetlands throughout the Great Plains. When containing surface water, playas provide crucial habitat for many wildlife that depend on water to survive. When dry, playas also support several other Great Plains wildlife species because they are often the only natural lands in a region dominated by agricultural production. Playas also recharge water to the underlying aquifer, filter nutrients and chemicals from the surrounding watershed, and add recreational value to the region.

Registration for the event is $20 per person (which includes the cost of lunch, drinks and snacks). Space is limited. Register online or contact Darryl Birkenfeld, Ogallala Commons Director (darryl@ogallalacommons.org or 806-945-2255).

The Field Day is sponsored by partners of Ogallala Commons including the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District and the Dixon Water Foundation.