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Transplanting program aims to save threatened Mead's milkweed

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Topeka Capitol-Journal published this story about efforts to transplant Mead's milkweed, a federally protected plant, that was growing in the right-of-way at the Anderson County Prairie Preserve, before the expansion of U.S. 169 highway. The Preserve is owned by The Nature Conservancy and managed by the Kansas Biological Survey as part of the KU Field Station. It is referred to by The Nature Conservancy as the "Sunset Prairies." Kansas Biological Survey researchers surveyed the right-of-way for the plants and is monitoring the moved plants.

Read the full story

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When the Kansas Department of Transportation notified Jim Hays and his colleagues at The Nature Conservancy in Kansas that the agency was going to expand US-169 highway near its Sunset Prairies at Welda, Hays knew something had to be done to protect the Mead’s milkweed growing in the highway right of way.

Mead’s milkweed is a perennial plant of the tallgrass prairie that is on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ threatened species list. Sunset Prairies, about 10 miles south of Garnett, is known to have the highest number of protected Mead’s milkweed in the world.

Hays’ idea was to dig up the Mead’s milkweed plants from the highway right of way and transplant them to another area of the prairie where they would be protected and thrive.

“I contacted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, and before that I talked to the Kansas Biological Survey, about moving them rather than maintaining them where they were at,” Hays, conservation projects coordinator for The Nature Conservancy in Kansas, said. “They said there would be no problem with moving them.”

The 1,450-acre Sunset Prairies was acquired by The Nature Conservancy in Kansas about 15 years ago and is managed by the Kansas Biological Survey.

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