KSU co-hosts conference to inspire collaboration, preservation of grasslands

MANHATTAN — Nearly 200 researchers, students, ranchers and conservationists will gather in Manhattan Aug. 12-14 for the biennial America’s Grasslands Conference. The event will focus on the status, threats and opportunities facing America’s declining grasslands.

It is the first time for Kansas State University to host the conference, which will be at the Hilton Garden Inn, 410 S. Third St., Manhattan. The event is co-hosted by the National Wildlife Federation.

This year’s conference, “America’s Grasslands: The Future of Grasslands in a Changing Landscape,” will focus on collaborating with ranchers to conserve grasslands.

“Native grasslands and the wildlife that depend on them are disappearing at alarming rates,” said Aviva Glaser, agriculture policy specialist at the National Wildlife Federation. “This conference will bring together scientific experts, resource managers, ranchers, conservationists, policy experts and many other stakeholders to discuss the major threats and opportunities associated with conserving grasslands in a changing landscape.”

“We want to do what we can to help the conservation and careful management of the American grassland,” said John Briggs, Kansas State University professor of biology who is helping organize the conference. “It’s going to take all of these groups working together. We can’t just work in a vacuum.”

Conference events will also take place at the Manhattan Conference Center, which is connected to the Hilton Garden Inn. The nearby new Flint Hills Discovery Center and the Konza Prairie Biological Station made Manhattan a natural fit for this year’s conference, said Briggs, who is also director of the Konza Prairie Biological Station. The last conference, in Sioux Falls, S.D., two years ago, attracted more than 250 people.

On Aug. 12, conference participants will have the option to tour local grasslands, including the Flint Hills Native Tallgrass Prairie and the Konza Prairie Biological Station. Aug. 13 and 14 will include breakout sessions, presentations, posters and round-table discussion surrounding a variety of topics related to native grassland conservation and restoration. An opening reception on Aug. 12 will take place in the Flint Hills Discovery Center and a dinner on Aug. 13 at the Konza Prairie Biological Station will give participants the chance to talk informally and collaborate.

Kansas State University and the offices of the provost, vice president for research, dean of agriculture and dean of arts and sciences have provided $5,000 total to cover the cost of registration for several graduate students. The funds are supporting graduate students from 10 different universities, including graduate students at Kansas State University.

Sponsors of the conference include National Wildlife Federation, World Wildlife Fund, Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, Sharp Brothers Seed Co., Grassland Heritage Foundation and the Consortium for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability. Many other organizations will attend, as well as state and federal government officials, ranchers from across the plains and several members of Native American

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