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Restored Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Wetlands a Success Story for Kansas Easements

Northwest of Topeka, Kansas nestled in the corner of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation (PBPN) Reservation in Jackson County, lies a newly restored wetland filling with spring rains, and greening up with native vegetation. Enrolled in fall of 2017, the 32-acre parcel is a historic piece of property as the first Tribal lands long-term contract established in Kansas. PBPN and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) worked together to enroll the area into the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) as a Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE). By doing so, the area was able to be restored to its historic wetland condition and will be protected and maintained with the help of NRCS for the next 30 years.

A Partnership Meant to Be

On November 5, 1996, the PBPN Tribal Council signed a resolution with the goal “to conserve, enhance, and restore the quantity, quality, and biological diversity of wetlands within the PBPN Reservation.” The goals of this resolution align very closely with the ACEP-WRE purpose and objectives; “restore, protect, and enhance wetlands on eligible private or Tribal lands while maximizing wildlife habitat benefits and wetland functions and values.” One might say it was meant to be for PBPN and NRCS to come together in a partnership. The partnership became a reality in December 2018, when the Tribe entered an ACEP-WRE agreement with NRCS to restore and protect this wetland. With the help and collaboration of many Tribal members and NRCS employees, the groups worked together learning from one another, both providing expertise, and fostering a relationship of historic importance.

Restoration During a Global Pandemic

The easement enrollment, acquisition, and restoration process took longer than expected as it encountered many different delays, but with persistence, in March 2022 the wetland restoration was officially complete. The restoration included excavation for a shallow water development with one main low-level dike embankment, two wave berms, and an auxiliary spillway. The main dike includes a water control structure that functions with a drawdown channel that connects two primary wetland pools. Vegetation restoration was accomplished by seeding native warm season vegetation on the upland acres, as well as the constructed dikes. Restored wetland cells were allowed to revegetate, naturally relying on soil seed bank and moist soil management. The wetland filled to capacity for the first time this year, and has received a positive vegetation response. The Tribe and NRCS continue to collaborate as they are developing operation and maintenance plans. The partnership hopes the wetland will provide education and recreational opportunities to the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation for many years to come.

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