MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT
“One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?”
– Rachel Carson
Audubon of Kansas A Voice for Wildlife An Advocate for Prairie Conservation Dear Friend, of Trustees of airman of the Board Ch as ing e rv se ar sed about our futur This is my first ye and I am very enthu ), issue. OK s (A thi as in t ns ou Ka Audubon of u will read ab yo ts en hm lis mp co us ac ; however, there is because of the vario to accomplish a lot le ab en be ve ha With your help, we r cause. ne. e correctness of ou still much to be do iented, motivated by gth comes from th en str r ou at th use we are action-or e ca re be ag s ll igns on on wi ati u niz yo ga ve I belie ervation or articulating “campa habitat rather than g wildlife and cons er on am oth e d an iqu s un nd is tla as we , Audubon of Kans ervation of prairies ne for wildlife, cons g. what needs to be do ues. Your annual sin rai of conservation iss purpose of fund m ary tru ec im sp pr an d the oa r br fo a paper” unications provide rship across ate on AOK’s leade s and written comm -d ice about. -to vo re r up ca u ou ly yo as s y ep de da ing difference each Prairie Wings br ies that we all so a ec s sp ke ife ma ldl as wi ns er Ka and oth t on bon of Black-footed Ferre mselves – the birds investment in Audu ngered animal – the cannot speak for the o da en wh st se mo tho ’s r ca fo eri cy advoca n of Am essful reintroductio key role in the succ Kansas Nongame AOK has played a pt to eviscerate the t properties. em rd att ha an rn a se Ba po d op an to eld en two members of the Haverfi led the efforts rms and testified wh Audubon of Kansas ala , d fe on se Sa ssi rai tic se lly ma ve sfu ati es ram isl o succ ’s Prog During the 2013 leg Act of 1975. We als and Wildlife Service ge ecies Conservation on of the U.S. Fish conserve and mana ati to cre ice se rv po Se op to the n and Endangered Sp th tio wi olu rk res wo a to en ing ers be sh s landown ation ha began pu Senate committee ny people, conserv is designed to allow th the support of ma ogram. That program wi pr y, nt tel na me rtu ree Fo Ag s. ts. or Harb ift Foxe oted Ferre ous Hawks and Sw to benefit Black-fo lly keeping it as a lden Eagles, Ferrugin prairie dog colonies Go fit ne be o als life Refuge – actua ll ild wi W it l d na an tio d Na ee ra oc the Quivi allowed to pr how best to manage reintroduction. t AOK’s position on other site for ferret ou an ab as d oky Hills bly rea o ssi als po ll d an , You’ es an Cr e estate for her Sm ing ngered Whoop ion to provide a lif cis de of active ’s ity erg bil rb ati hte mp Ac safe haven for enda asis on the co ph story of Connie em the ial ce ec un sp no e an tur to ased ife. ry. It will fea We are especially ple birds and other wildl K wildlife sanctua hanced habitat for en become another AO e ll uc wi od as, pr ich t wh tha y, es ert prop on practic hts-of-way in Kans ng with conservati acres of highway rig 00 0,0 15 e nc ha farming practices alo en for the initiative to ucing emissions. y to voice support nefit saving fuel and red ile wh – at AOK works tirelessl bit ograms actually be ha peal and wildlife d environmental pr ap an c gle to on eti ug ati sth str t erv ae ns tan ng co ns idi ll prov ittee. It is a co DA’s Farm Bi mm US Co the al t nic tha ng ch Te rin su od on the State olved in en lipsed by pr uctio n Klataske’s service AOK is actively inv ions from being ec Ro rat gh ide ou ns co thr s al pe gic ca ’ lands ep ecolo wildlife and Kansas equations and to ke considerations in the ife ldl wi d an wardship will h fis keep tural world and ste na only demands. the r fo on ati dic a de mplishments of that folks who share tedly know, the acco ub do un u yo We simply request As . as Audubon of Kans s we have available. support the work of the limited resource r fo nt ica nif consider sending sig y hope that you will d AOK are incredibl an ue iss s thi in icles comments on the art time. We welcome your contribution at this ed iat ec pr ap tly ea gr d an d de ee -n a much Sincerely, Randy Rathbun Trustees Chairman, Board of
CONTENTS The Chairman’s Message ....................................IFC Board of Trustees ......................................................2 Mt. Mitchell Sanctuary ............................................3 Connie Achterberg Wildlife-Friendly Farm ........4 Niobrara Sanctuary Update ..................................8
Niobrara Sanctuary Birdiing..................................9 Andy Andersen, a Distinguished Fellow ..........10
The mission of Audubon of Kansas includes promoting the enjoyment, understanding, protection, and restoration of natural ecosystems. We seek to establish a culture of conservation and an environmental ethic.
Prairie Wings is a publication of Audubon of Kansas, Inc. Additional newsletters and AOK E-News are published periodically. See our websites at www.audubonofkansas.org and www.niobrarasanctuary.org
Recognition of Excellence......................................12 Chaplin Nature Center Celebration....................14 Birds in Focus............................................................16 Saving Quivira’s Unique Qualities & Wildlife ..17
Please consider becoming a member, giving a gift membership, and/or contributing to the vital work of Audubon of Kansas. AOK is an independent grassroots organization that is not administered or funded by the National Audubon Society. All funding is dedicated to our work in the central Great Plains and Prairie states.
Saving Cheyenne Bottoms – Part II ....................25
Send comments or materials for consideration to any of the following:
Philanthropy for AOK ............................................32
Board Editorial Committee:
Larry Haverfield ......................................................33 Canada Welcomes a Native ................................40
Joyce Wolf, Special Editor/Copy Editor William R. Browning, Chairman/Special Editor Dick Seaton, Contributing Editor Robert T. McElroy, Contributing Editor
Imperiled Wildlife Dismissed in Kansas ............42
Ron Klataske, Executive Director/Managing Editor
Hard Times for Black-footed Ferrets ..................46
Audubon of Kansas 210 Southwind Place Manhattan, KS 66503 e-mail: AOK@audubonofkansas.org Phone: 785-537-4385
Roadside Virtues & Threats ..................................49 Incredible Insects......................................................51 Feeding Birds, Not Cats................................54 Extinction for 100 Years ..............................58
Lana Micheel, Niobrara Sanctuary Coordinator Ryan Klataske, Consulting Webmaster Magazine Layout by: Chris Goodmiller, Ag Press Graphic Designer and
Sanctuary’s Historic Bridle ..........................61 Mountain Lions in Our Midst ......................62
Vicky McCallum, Graphic Designer Vicky’s Graphic Design www.vickysgraphicdesign.com
Make the Jump to AOK ..............................IBC Printed by: Front Cover Photograph: An American Avocet tending a nest with eggs. Photo by Glenn D. Chambers © Back Cover Photograph: Two Burrowing Owls. Photo by David Seibel ©
1531 Yuma Street, Manhattan, KS 66502 785.539.7558 www.agpress.com
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Board of Trustees
Randy Rathbun, Chairman, Wichita Dick Seaton, Vice Chair, Manhattan Joyce Wolf, Secretary, Lawrence Donald Wissman, Treasurer,
Robert T. McElroy, MD, Chairman Emeritus, Topeka William R. Browning, MD, Exec. Comm,
Irwin "Hoogy" Hoogheem and Carol pose for a photo on a field trip. Hoogy is the Chapter-selected AOK Trustee representing the Northern Flint Hills Audubon Society.
While a KSU student, Neal Rasmussen worked as AOK's part-time administrative assistance for several years. In July 2013 Neal and Sydney Case were married, and Neal is now in law school at the University of Minnesota.
Lisa Stickler, Exec. Comm, Bucyrus Harold W. Andersen, Omaha, NE Phillip L. Baker, MD, Topeka Bernita Berntsen, MD, Berryton Mike Bily, Joliet, IL Evelyn Davis, Wakarusa Kristine B. Davis, Hutchinson Matt Gearheart, Shawnee David Gnirk, Herrick, SD Don Heikes, Lenora Irwin â€œHoogyâ€? Hoogheem,
Ogden/Manhattan Kelley Hurst, Lawrence
Hon. James C. Johnson, Abilene Cathy Lucas, Liberal Mary Powell, Topeka A. Scott Ritchie, Wichita Wesley Sandall, Bassett, NE John Schukman, Leavenworth Richard G. Tucker, Parsons Mary Ellen Rudick, Salina
Connie Achterberg, Salina Barbara Atkinson, Gardner Glenn Chambers, Columbia, MO Carol Cumberland, Wichita Joyce Davis, Dodge City Larry and Bette Haverfield, Winona Karl and Carmen Jungbluth, Boone, IA Patty Marlett, Wichita Kay McFarland, Topeka Anice Robel, Manhattan Marjorie E. Streckfus, Salina Elsie Vail, Altamont Paul Willis, Salina Charles Wright, Lincoln, NE
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Trustees Bob McElroy, Bill Browning and Honorary Trustee Glenn D. Chambers on a visit to the Mt. Mitchell sanctuary. Glenn is a renowned photographer and prairie enthusiast from Columbia, Missouri. Glenn made the photograph of the American Avocet featured on the cover.
Trustee Mary Powell with her husband Craig Yorke and their son Chris near the "summit" of Mt. Mitchell. Chris designed and built the TreeTop Treehouse at the Kansas Children's Discovery Center in Topeka. Mary grew up on a Sioux reservation in South Dakota, which anchored her love of things natural, wild and free.
Trustee Kelley Hurst shows Danny Kamphas and his grandchildren, Taylor and Avary, the reestablished prairie dog colony at the Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary.
Mt. Mitchell Prairie Heritage Sanctuary Snapshot
herbicides to eliminate “weeds” from the hay. Everything except grasses are regarded by many people as weeds! The same approach is often taken with native rangelands. Livestock grazing often eliminates some of the species and changes the composition to those that best tolerate grazing. Mt. Mitchell is located three miles south of Wamego and it is jointly managed with the Mt. Mitchell Prairie Guards. The Guards have provided leadership for interpretation of cultural history—especially relating to the struggle to make Kansas a Free State and the thread of the Underground Railroad through this area—and made major improvements to enhance the visitation experience.
Ron Klataske photos
Audubon of Kansas wildlife sanctuaries are designed to combine conservation of treasured natural areas and demonstration of management and stewardship, with opportunities for nature appreciation. The wildflowers, native grasses, birds and other wildlife provide a glimpse of the diversity of life that exists within pristine prairie plant communities. Although the sanctuary is only 47 acres, the 32 acres that were previously held by the Kansas Historic Society are viewed as one of the best examples of native prairie in the northern Flint Hills. AOK acquired the additional 15 acres to encompass the entire prominent hill and to provide better access. Most other prairie remnants have been mowed annually, and tragically many have been sprayed with
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AOK accepts opportunity to share stewardship responsibility for the
Connie Achterberg Wildlife-Friendly Demonstration Farm
t wasn’t long ago when hundreds of thousands of farms in the plains and Midwest were the source of much more than crops and livestock. Family life, community life and a way-of-life were an inseparable part of rural farm life. Cultivated and hayed lands and pastures were just one element, essential for rural livelihoods. Farms were diversified with livestock and poultry, orchards and gardens, and an array of different crops. Within the patchwork of fields, many farms had remnants of native prairies and woodlands. With streams, hedgerows, and wild fruit-bearing thickets along fencerows and lanes, farm landscapes provided places for wildlife and wildflowers – and places for children to explore. It was ordinary. However, looking back, we now realize that it was extraordinary. This lifestyle provided a cherished sense of place, and memories of every aspect of life on the land and beyond tied to family, friends and neighbors. The assistance of neighbors sharing equipment and labor was often essential, and rural towns had all the essentials provided by familyowned businesses. It is no mystery why generations who left the farm and rural communities for other careers brought with them a strong tie to the farms, ranches and towns of their youth – and their families’ heritage.
A view of Bullfoot Creek in June with Virginia Wild Rye and other lush vegetation along the stream and within the forest understory.
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Connie Achterberg is one among millions who left the farm but never lost her love for the parcel of land that was her childhood home, or her fondness for the surrounding countryside and community. As a child her mother allowed her to play and explore. She spent countless hours and days playing in the Smoky Hills stream that coursed across their farm. The meanders of Bullfoot Creek and the woodlands that lined it remain intact today, along with a native prairie meadow that was once the farm pasture. Her grandfather, Adolph Achterberg, owned the
farm and grew watermelons in one of the small bottomland fields nearly encircled by the creek. As described by Connie, “He would often come out to check on his watermelon crop or to chop wood.” His small dog, “Spotty” usually accompanied him and it was a joy for a little farm girl. There were many good times, and most certainly in the 1930s there were hard times. Connie remembers the dust storms. The sky and the whole world around them turned yellow. The air was filled with yellow dust. Born in 1929, she wore a “little mask” when the dust storms came. Adolph died in 1934 of dust pneumonia. Connie’s father worked for Northern Natural Gas and the family sometimes traveled with him. She graduated from high school in Casper, Wyoming. From there she attended Northwestern University completing coursework as an undergraduate, and then from the Law School at the University of Kansas in 1953. She was one of five women in a law school with 140 students. Thus, she was obviously a leader in America’s movement to realize the exceptional promise of women in all professions. She continues with a private practice in Salina. Her late husband enjoyed flyfishing. Connie joined him as it was something special they enjoyed together – and
The photos above include a Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly, one of many native pollinators, on a Common Milkweed; a stately Bur Oak, likely present here since the 19th century; and, an excellent stand of native grasses in the CRP field buﬀer planting.
possibly a natural transition for a woman who grew up often playing along and in a Kansas stream. She continues to make annual trips to Montana, to fly fish for trout in the company of friends made in their earlier trips. Following considerable thought and reflection over an extended period, Connie recently decided to make a gift of her farm to Audubon of Kansas. The plan is for Connie to retain a life estate and stewardship responsibilities for the remainder of her life. Audubon of Kansas will partner with her to further enhance some parts of the property for native flora and fauna. The property will be named the Connie Achterberg Wildlife Friendly Demonstration Farm, and has become the newest addition to the AOK sanctuary system. It consists of 240 acres located southwest of Lincoln, Kansas. Due in large part to Connie’s stewardship and to natural features of the land, it is already an excellent example of farm conservation programs and habitat protection with wildlife clearly in mind. The confluence of streams and waterways with considerable riparian forest results in that being the most prevalent “cover type” across the center of the farm. The woodlands and a couple small sections of grass
Northern Bobwhite in a hedge tree.
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wildlife habitat. Twenty-seven acres of native grass field buffers, also referred to as upland gamebird buffers, have been established and are enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). They extend along most of Bullfoot Creek and Horse Creek woodlands, along a quarter-mile stretch of the longestablished hedgerow (planted Osage Orange trees) along the southwest edge of the property, and along the base of a hill on the southeast corner of the farm.
AOK Trustees, chapter leaders and others touring the property on September 28. Participants pictured in the prairie meadow include Anice Robel, Kevin Groeneweg, Matt Gearheart, Dan Baﬀa, Tom Ewert, Kathie Roy, Patty Marlett, Dick Seaton, Randy Rathbun, Cathy Lucas, Bob McElroy and R.W. Lucas.
waterways total about 45 acres. The extensive riparian forests along Bullfoot Creek are impressive and wide enough within the heart of the area to provide a feeling that one is within a central Kansas “forest,” and not in the midst of farmland and rangeland. An array of tree species of various sizes make it obvious that it hasn’t been logged in a very long time and regeneration hasn’t been impacted by winter stocking of livestock on the farm. The most magnificent trees are large Bur Oak and Hackberry. Horse Creek enters from the south and merges with Bullfoot Creek near the center of the property, the most wooded area. Together these two streams provide about two miles of woodland edge, an ecotone that is attractive to a variety of native birds, including Red-headed Woodpeckers, Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Kingbirds, Indigo Buntings, Northern Bobwhites and many others. Another established feature further enhances the value of this bird and
The presence of the hedgerow on the south third of the western boundary is noteworthy. It is an example of the thousands of miles of hedgerows that were once established in Kansas only to be largely removed in the second half of the 20th century. This one provides excellent wildlife habitat characteristic of the best of the hedgerows and it connects woodlands with grasslands to the south. Connectivity of different habitats is important. This hedgerow is like a piece of heaven for a covey of Northern Bobwhites.
Although most of the tillable land has been cultivated and is in crops or CRP, one native prairie remnant of about 9 acres remains. Restoring this prairie remnant will naturally be a high priority for AOK. It is a reminder of the time when most Kansas farms had native prairie hay meadows. They were vital as sources of quality hay for draft horses, which were an essential part of farming for at least fifty years from homestead settlement until well into the 20th century.
Connie Achterberg is pictured in the riparian woodlands within the property.
Controlling bromegrass invasion in the meadow (already a problem) and in a few other places within the field buffers will be one management challenge addressed to protect the native prairie and also the impressive understory of Virginia Wild Rye existing within the timbered areas. We also plan to inter-seed some of
“Nature has been for me, for as long as I remember, a source of solace, inspiration, adventure, and delight; a home, a teacher, a companion.”
– Lorraine Anderson, author of Sisters of the Earth: Women's Prose and Poetry About Nature – Quoted in The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women
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the buffer areas to increase the species richness and abundance of native wildflowers and other forbs. This will enhance the value of these areas as bird and pollinator habitat. Eventually, we hope to plant additional shrub thickets within or along the buffer strips and/or other field borders. Chokecherry and other shrub thickets will further highlight the strategy of the farm as a wildlife friendly showplace. American Plum thickets and other native shrubs including Wild Gooseberry, Golden Current and Elderberry will also be included. Shrubnesting songbirds that are particularly attracted by and utilize shrub thickets during the breeding season include Brown Thrashers, Bell’s Vireos, Indigo Buntings and Catbirds. Thickets serve as “covey headquarters” for Bobwhite Quail, and are utilized as escape cover for Cottontail Rabbits – a familiar farm species that is not nearly as common as it was fifty years ago. The cropland will continue to be farmed by a neighboring farmer, a mutually beneficial partnership. Currently wheat, alfalfa and soybeans are grown. Grain sorghum (milo) and corn are other crop options. With all of the above features already in existence, and the modest enhancements outlined, the Connie Achterberg Wildlife Friendly Demonstration Farm will become a signature sanctuary addition to the AOK sanctuary system, and it will be complementary as a part of AOK conservation advocacy and education initiatives. With recent acceptance of the Achterberg farm, and the Hutton Ranch along the Niobrara River in Nebraska property in 2002, the Audubon of Kansas Board of Trustees has taken a unique approach to acceptance of property that qualifies as part of the AOK mission. Benefactors often want assurance that their heritage of land will never be sold and it will be managed in a manner consistent with their vision. Many, if not most, other entities do not routinely provide that commitment. An educational walking and wildlifeviewing trail along the edge and within the woodlands will become an added educational feature. It will give visitors an
opportunity to see and learn about various elements of the wildlife habitat and stewardship. The property, including the trail, will only be open by reservation and permission. This arrangement will help prevent excessive disturbance of wildlife during certain seasons, reduce the prospect of poaching and/or other unauthorized activities. When members of the AOK Board of Trustees and Smoky Hills Audubon Society chapter leaders held a brief tour of the property on September 28, a Blue-
headed Vireo and a male Summer Tanager were among the top attractions in the trees. County bird lists are maintained by the Kansas Ornithological Society – and this was the first Summer Tanager record for Lincoln County.
– Article and photos by Ron Klataske
A USDA aerial photo of the Achterberg Farm delineating the various cultivated fields, the prairie meadow, and other features including woodlands along the streams, two grass waterways between fields, and the upland gamebird buﬀers along the riparian woodlands and hedgerow bordering the fields.
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Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary Sandhill Crane Chicks, Woodland Restoration & New Trails A pair of Greater Sandhill Cranes were observed hanging out in the wet meadows along the Niobrara River in the northern part of the sanctuary in the summer of 2012. They returned this past spring, and we immediately restricted human activity, hoping they were nesting in the associated wetlands. We saw them at a distance, with two small chicks, on June 1. A month later the adult cranes were still in the wet meadows, foraging in the grasses with one surviving chick. The parent birds are keenly aware of the surroundings and watchful of any potential threat from humans, Coyotes or Bald Eagles in the area. The young chicks seem careless as they charge forward in search of grasshoppers and other food. Sandhill Cranes have only started to return in recent years to historical nesting habitats in Nebraska, possibly expanding from the Great Lakes population that was not extirpated, as had been the case for cranes that previously nested in the Great Plains. It was there in the marshes of Wisconsin where Aldo Leopold wrote of the quality of cranes. Regarded by many as the father of wildlife conservation, he appreciated the natural beauty of all forms of life and wrote with as much inspiration as a poet. He regarded the quality of cranes as beyond the reach of words. In A Sand County Almanac, he wrote poetically about these birds at daybreak with a tribute that a “new day has begun on the crane marsh.” On the northern edge of the Sandhills, we are delighted that new crane marshes may now exist. Providing quality habitat for grassland birds and other wildlife is a principal focus for management of the sanctuary. Bobolinks arrive in mid May and they need a couple months to breed and fledge young from nests in the wet meadows. Hay harvesting is delayed until after the middle of July to accommodate their needs. Likewise, livestock grazing is delayed and/or redirected to alternative pastures to minimize potential disturbance and trampling impacts on prime nesting areas used by Sharp-tailed Grouse, Upland Sandpipers, Western Meadowlarks and a pair of Long-billed Curlews. Some rangeland units are not grazed for a year to allow growth of taller nesting and brood cover. Lark Sparrows and Grasshopper Sparrows are two of the more common nesting birds in sanctuary prairies, but Dickcissels have become much more prevalent in recent years in the 200 acres of native grasses and forbs planted on previously cultivated fields. Seventeen acres were specifically planted with an array of wildflowers and legumes to serve as “pollinator habitat.” It appears to be ideal for Bobwhite Quail and as brood habitat for young Sharptails. The project to reestablish a small colony of Black-
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tailed Prairie Dogs continues to receive our attention. There is no evidence that any have escaped from the 15acre fenced enclosure and left the reintroduction site. In that and other respects it has been a success. However, reproduction was low in the spring of 2013 due to the fact that most of the prairie dogs relocated to the sanctuary were juveniles. At least two litters of pups were observed. The source was a hundred prairie dogs captured at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in late summer 2012. Predation by Badgers, Coyotes and raptors have taken a toll, but we are hopeful that enough have survived and will raise young this spring to begin to build a sustainable colony. We’re looking forward to the time when Burrowing Owls also settle in to raise young in this small prairie dog town. Red Cedar invasion of grasslands often diminishes the value of these areas for prairie grouse and other grassland birds. With shearing of cedars in upland areas over a period of several years and controlled burning in 2011 and 2012 we’ve restored the open grassland character to most of the native rangelands. Combined with total “resting” (no livestock grazing) of some pastures in recent years, followed by light to modest grazing, range conditions and plant community health have markedly improved. In the past six months our emphasis on cedar removal has been designed to restore the natural character of the deciduous woodlands along streams, the Niobrara River and on the north-facing slopes extending down to the river. In many areas Red Cedars were overwhelming deciduous woodlands, choking out understory and mid-level vegetation, eliminating regeneration of new hardwoods and even killing larger trees as they grew taller to compete for moisture, soil nutrients and even sunlight. Woodlands with Bur Oak, Basswood, Green Ash, Serviceberry, Cottonwood and Willow are being restored. Visitors Enjoy Sanctuary, Guesthouses and Trails For a personal retreat, family gathering or group outing with lodging within a wildlife sanctuary, the opportunities provided by the 5,000-acre Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary are unique. Both of the two guesthouses are exceptional, with four bedrooms each, fully equipped kitchens, living rooms and much more. In addition to sanctuary roads suitable for hiking and biking, we are developing miles of walking trails for nature appreciation within the forests and upland prairies within the river valley and along the river bluffs. Anyone interested in exploring the possibilities for activities and reservations should contact the AOK office or the niobrarasanctuary.org website.
Fourteen Topeka Audubon Society members journeyed to the Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary owned by Audubon of Kansas and located on the northern edge of the Sandhills of north central Nebraska. The scenic Niobrara River borders the property of about 5,000 acres. In the few years that the property has been managed by AOK, a tremendous amount of conservation work has been completed and the diversity of wildlife that is now evident attests to the improved habitat. This was a three-day weekend outing starting on May 31. As suggested by the photo above, it was chilly and overcast, and windy on Saturday. But it still turned out to be an exceptionally fine trip. We stayed in the two guesthouses where we watched a variety of birds associated with the trees and adjacent grasslands, and those that come to the feeders. One of many highlights of the trip was a nesting pair of Sandhill Cranes with young! And, as Carol Morgan reported to folks back home, the Sharp-tailed Grouse showed up on cue. There were Bobolinks on their nesting territories in the wet meadows, a pair of Long-billed Curlews and numerous Upland Sandpipers in the upper meadows, and dozens of other species throughout the sanctuary. We tallied Ovenbirds and Scarlet Tanagers in the woodlands near the confluence of Rock Creek and the river, and a Yellowbreasted Chat along Willow Creek. Several of us got one or more “lifers.” Perhaps one of
Virginia Rails. Ron Klataske photos
A Birding Trip to the Niobrara Sanctuary
the best finds was an illusive rail, which finally made itself visible after many vocalizations and a second foray out into the late evening hours by several in our group. Once we called in one Virginia Rail, a second came along, and then there were four in another marsh. Several Kangaroo Rats, delightful denizens of the Sandhills prairie, scampered across the sanctuary road in front of our headlights on our return to the guesthouses. Earlier, a White-tailed Jackrabbit raced along the same trail and stopped long enough for photos. Even with a little drizzle, chilly and strong winds, it was a super weekend enjoyed by all fourteen of us. The weather was perfect on Sunday, but alas we had to leave. The best advice we can offer is to plan for several days in the area. We didn’t even see all of the sanctuary or utilize the trails that are being developed. There are also numerous additional attractions in that region of the state, including the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge and the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge to the west, and the Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park to the east. AOK Executive Director, Ron Klataske can help trip planners consider field trips, scenic routes and river float trip options. —Evelyn Davis SPRING / SUMMER 2014
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Harold W. Andersen,
A Distinguished Fellow Andy Andersen (right) and Ron Klataske at Andy's Triple Creek Farm and Lodge in Missouri, April 2013
he greatest people we have known do not lead and aspire for personal rewards. They think in terms of what they can do and how they can help others. In Andy Andersen’s case, his devotion has included conservation, instilling outdoor enjoyment and the profession of journalism. He also has a natural propensity of bringing people together in friendship. His leadership exemplifies a quotation attributed to Walt Whitman:
“When I give, I give myself.” A general overview of Andy’s impressive contributions to a broad spectrum of interests to the Nebraska Game and Parks Foundation and the agency were included in text of a Distinguished Fellow Award presented to Andy in July, a few days before his 90th birthday. The list is just the tip of the iceberg of Andy’s contributions and leadership for conservation alone. He served on the Midwest Advisory Committee for the National Park Service many years ago, contributed generously to Ducks Unlimited, National Audubon and Audubon Nebraska, the Nebraska Land Trust, and The Nature Conservancy, which relied on his guidance for establishment of a state chapter in Nebraska. With a three-year challenge gift and fundraising outreach he also made it possible for Audubon of Kansas to emerge from a largely unfunded startup to an effective conservation force. With AOK’s acceptance of the gift of 5,000 acres from the estate of Harold and Lucille Hutton that became the Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary in 2002, AOK has relied on the sage
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advice of Andy (and fellow Nebraska leader Charles Wright of Lincoln) to make the property an outstanding demonstration of stewardship. We have been honored to have Andy Andersen on the Audubon of Kansas Board of Trustees. Our board consists of individuals who have excelled in their professions and personal lives. Andersen Hall, which houses the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at UNL, is named after Harold and Marian Andersen. The inspirational leadership of this couple is without parallel in Nebraska. Harold Andersen has spent his life in an unrelenting quest to see a free press established globally and has affected political and governmental decision-making worldwide. He was the first American to serve as president of the International Federation of Newspaper Publishers. As a way of being more closely involved in activities with their teenage son, David, Andy followed the advice of a friend and began with an extended canoe trip on the Dismal River. Hunting became a joint passion and continues. I have been honored to host Andy, David and other friends for nearly-annual Spring Turkey hunting in Kansas, and join them on other occasions at Andersen’s farm devoted to conservation and hunting and fishing in Missouri. For many of our nation’s first generations of conservationists, hunting has been a springboard for conservation. And as we have previously highlighted in PRAIRIE WINGS, conservation and camaraderie are complementary companions. —Ron Klataske
Think where manâ€™s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends. â€”W. B. Yeats,
The smiles of Tom Beachler, Andy Andersen and David Andersen reflect a delightful day afield. Kansas Spring Turkey season 2013.
The view from inside the hunting blind. May we all be blessed with Andy's spirt when we are 89. SPRING / SUMMER 2014
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One of the Barnhardt prairies, included in a tour in June, with a display of native flowers making it obvious why eastern Kansas prairies are ecologically important.
“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” --Voltaire
AOK Awards & Recognition of Excellence
(French Philosopher and Writer. 1694-1778)
for Service to Others and the Natural World Periodically, Audubon of Kansas presents a series of conservation related awards to recognize the good work and leadership of uniquely dedicated people throughout the state and region. These and so many other people deserve our thanks. Nominations can be submitted at any time. The most recent awards presented are outlined below. Mike Corn jokes that some people might say he has been at The Hays Daily News too long, the newspaper where he’s worked as a reporter since 1982. An 86-year-old reader from Goodland isn't one of those; she claims to look forward to receiving Friday's newspaper the most. Many other northwest and northcentral Kansas residents share her appreciation. Bob McElroy with the Stewardship Almost all who appreciate Award presented to him by AOK Vice his thorough and Chairman Dick Seaton at a 2013 investigative reporting Trustees meeting in Abilene. hope he’ll be there for another thirty-two years! Mike started in the newspaper industry accidentally, wanting to write something safe, such as poetry. But as they say, his veins now run black with printer's ink. As a professional journalist, his perseverance and investigative reporting are among his most appreciated qualities. He doesn’t just pick up and drop subjects like a seagull with pebbles on the beach. He becomes knowledgeable about many subjects and periodically reports on them, providing readers with a comprehensive understanding of complex issues. This is a rare quality for newspapers, especially in rural areas. He also reports on the extraordinary and commendable things that folks are involved in throughout that region. Reporting on the dedication of Larry and Bette Haverfield to conservation of wildlife is just one of many examples. The Friday Outdoors page is truly about the outdoors: flowers, fish, ducks, pheasants and quail are
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among the topics. He has kept readers informed about the plight of the Lesser Prairie-chicken and the reintroduction of the Black-footed Ferret. Steve Sorensen, with his always-present sense of good humor, claims he “was born at a very young age in the very small town” of Hartley in northwestern Iowa! At the age of 2 years he contracted polio, and spent five months in a Sioux City hospital, much of it in an iron lung. Even at the discouragement of advisors, medical and professional, Steve persevered—and as with the lyrics of the state song of Kansas, he continued as if “…seldom is heard a discouraging word, And the
Mike Corn Earth Keeper Award for Professional Excellence in Journalism & Conservation Communication Steve Sorensen Earth Keeper Award for Professional Excellence in Wildlife Conservation Advocacy & Partnership Outreach Joyce Davis Stewardship Award for A Legacy of Audubon of Kansas Leadership and Dedication Bob McElroy Stewardship Award for A Legacy of Audubon of Kansas & Niobrara Sanctuary Leadership and Dedication
skies are not cloudy all Alliance. day.” He attended Iowa Roger L. Boyd was State University and awarded the Kansas graduated with a Ornithological Society’s Bachelor’s of Science distinguished Ivan L. Boyd degree in Fisheries and Service Award at the 2013 Wildlife Biology. fall meeting. He started work with Exceptionalism is a family the Kansas Forestry, Fish legacy. Roger’s late father and Game Commission in Ivan was a long-standing 1973 as a District Wildlife leader in KOS. As a Biologist stationed in biology professor at Baker Hutchinson. Steve became University Ivan instilled the Northcentral Wildlife appreciation in nature far Supervisor in Concordia beyond the classroom, and in 1979. He was he was responsibility for a transferred to Southcentral history of protection of Regional Fish and Baker Wetlands. Roger Wildlife Supervisor for followed in his footsteps at KDWP in 1988 during Baker, and is now steward Mike Corn with the Earth Keeper Joyce Davis with the Stewardship reorganization. Steve of all the expansion and Award tailored for his special Award presented to her at her home in initiated and supervised new developments at Baker contributions to conservation Dodge City, with a view of her the department’s Walk-In Wetlands. KOS also communication in Kansas. backyard reflecting her interest Hunting Access (WIHA) presented its Avian in birds and other wildlife. program and he initiated the agency’s forbs collection and production Conservationist of the Year program. Award to Dr. Elmer Finck, professor and chair of Biological He helped establish and was a leader of the Sand Hills Audubon Sciences at Fort Hays State University for his impressive Society, and provided leadership as well for the Kansas Audubon contributions to basic and Council, the Kansas Chapter of The Wildlife Society and formed a applied research, especially chapter of Ducks Unlimited. Steve has been a stalwart volunteer on grassland birds. with the Kansas Wildlife Federation since the early 1980’s, and he initiated KWF’s Outdoor Adventure Camp at Rock Springs 4-H "I can't believe Ranch. 2013 was the 25th anniversary of the camp. that God put us on Joyce Davis has been one of the most dedicated Trustees this earth to be throughout AOK’s existence, and has traveled to almost every meeting from Dodge City. Joyce was a librarian by profession ordinary." prior to her retirement, and advocacy of education has been among Lou Holtz her many leadership contributions. While cutting back on travel, Joyce remains an Honorary Trustee. She has also been involved with the Kansas Ornithological Society and other organizations. Bob McElroy was a charter member of the AOK Board of Trustees and has provided crucial leadership that has greatly enhanced the effectiveness of Audubon of Kansas in many capacities. Bob has been actively involved in every conservation initiative, and in stewardship of the Niobrara Sanctuary. His leadership as chairman of the board is widely known, reflected in annual letters to all members and in articles authored in PRAIRIE WINGS. A founder of Tallgrass Surgical in Topeka, Dr. McElroy is now a retired surgeon Steve Sorensen brought his and devotes more time to stewardship of his remarkable rural granddaughter, Alexis Marie property. Sanchez, to the October 15, 2008 Other Extraordinary Conservationists Recently Honored: release of Black-footed Ferrets on Among the many others in the conservation community who deserve the Haverfield/Barnhardt/Blank our appreciation we include Gordon & Martha Barnhardt of ranch. She was four days shy of Bucklin, Kansas who were presented with the Stephen L. Timme her 5th birthday. She still talks Excellence in Botany Award by the Kansas Native Plant Society. about that experience and “her” ferret that she helped release. They actively manage and have preserved three significant prairies in Steve with the Earth Keeper Leavenworth County, the location of Gordon’s childhood farm. Award presented in appreciation Likewise, we salute another prairie enthusiast, Bill Browning for for the broad spectrum of his being elected and serving as president of the Tallgrass Legacy organizational leadership. SPRING / SUMMER 2014
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Chaplin Nature Center Celebrates 40 Years
A Celebration of Nature was held at the Chaplin Nature Center (CNC) on Saturday, October 12, marking its 40th Anniversary.
Article by Kevin Groeneweg
Chairman – Chaplin Nature Center Advisory Committee
Photo by Sabra Cazel
ne of the main features of the afternoon was a concert by the Tallgrass Express String Band. A trailer served as the stage in the lower meadow, with hay bales for seating. The band entertained visitors with some good old-fashioned bluegrass music. Many of their songs were nature-themed, featuring their love for the tallgrass prairie, wildflowers, birds and other wildlife found there. There was a walking tour with several stations that included live animals and many other natural features within the woodlands and prairie. But the station that attracted the most attention was the one at which we served sautéed crickets! Quite naturally that is not for everyone’s palate. Thus, we served more typical fare too, with a big buffet providing plenty to eat for all. The weather was fantastic and folks of all ages had a great time as we reflected on the long and meaningful history of the Chaplin Nature Center. The Center is a 230acre preserve located along the west side of the Arkansas River three miles west of Arkansas City. The center is a
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priority education focus of the Wichita Audubon Society, and a property devoted to conservation. The Audubon chapter, organized in 1954, purchased the property from Hazel and Stedman Chaplin in October of 1973. The purchase realized a long-held dream of Wichita Audubon. The property
features bottomland forest, several restored prairies, and riparian areas, both along the Arkansas River and Spring Creek. Miles of trails let visitors explore and learn about these different habitat types. The Chaplins purchased the property in 1938 and for 35 years managed it to benefit wildlife. Both enjoyed feeding birds and observing the abundant wildlife on the property. They discovered a group of like-minded friends in the Wichita Audubon Society, which held its first field trip to the Chaplin farm in 1960 that became an annual event. When discussions began about creating a nature center, the Chaplin property came to mind. Development began in earnest with the hiring of full-time naturalist Gerald Wiens in 1980. CNC was now open for educational programs, miles of hiking trails were developed and plans for an education and interpretive building began. Over 1,500 visitors were registered that first year. Construction of a visitor center began by the end of the decade. The new building was dedicated in September of 1989, providing interpretive displays and becoming the gathering place for educational programs.
A class from Arkansas City examines life on a fallen log. Bottom photos on opposite page: A Big Brothers Big Sisters group on an outing to CNC. The bluff staircase leads from the Visitor's Center to the trails to the Arkansas River. Photos by Patty Marlett.
In 1997, after more than 16 years of dedicated service and assistance in making the vision and goals of the nature center a reality, Gerald left to pursue other personal and professional interests. Current naturalist, Shawn Silliman was then hired, and has continued the development of the property and the educational programs for school classes from across south-central Kansas, as well
as for civic organizations, youth groups and the general public. A major renovation of the interpretive displays was completed in 2008. The trails through the woods and prairies, leading to the sandbars of the Arkansas River, are open to the public from sunrise to sunset year round. Funded by the generosity of our members and friends, programs at CNC are free and open to the public. Over the last year Shawn has conducted ninety-two school programs for more than 2,000 kids and nineteen public programs for more than 500 people. Shawn has also hosted eleven groups, including weddings and other events with nearly 700 participants and over 2,200 Chaplin Nature Center visitors. In addition to the 40th anniversary celebration of nature and fund-raising event, CNC programs included for the year included Monarch Butterfly tagging, an astronomy program, night hikes, Bald Eagle watches, a twilight kayak float on the river and the annual butterfly count.
A class of students from Wichita explores the new exhibits in the Visitors Center. Patty Marlett photo.
Check out the full schedule at wichitaaudubon.org and plan a visit soon!
You only need sit still long enough in some attractive spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns.
â€“ Henry David Thoreau from the chapter â€œBrute Neighborsâ€? in Walden SPRING / SUMMER 2014
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Birds of Quivira Through the Lenses of This selection of extraordinary images of birds at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge are a few of the many made by Kansas photographers Bob Gress, David Seibel and Judd Patterson.
Our goal at Birds In Focus is to provide a single location for top-quality bird photographs. Each photograph is tagged with ornithological details and available through fast, dynamic searches. New images are added frequently, and we certainly entertain special requests. You may enjoy viewing some of our favorite images or recent publications. Thank you very much for visiting www.birdsinfocus.com.
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â€“ Bob, Judd, and David
Saving Quivira’s Unique Qualities
Black-necked Stilts displaying – © Bob Gress
for Wildlife and Nature-based Visitation By Ron Klataske,
Reflecting the Audubon of Kansas Position Statement
he 22,135-acre Quivira National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in central Kansas is the most critical habitat within the state for Whooping Cranes, and one of the most important wetland habitats for shorebirds, wading and other water birds, and waterfowl in the central Great Plains. It is also one of the nation’s premiere places for people from throughout the country to see, experience and photograph birds and other wildlife.
It has become “the place” for wildlife enthusiasts to visit because of the management of this unique wetland and sand-prairie complex. It has a sufficient, but limited, system of roads that are not excessively intrusive. In the past the refuge has been closed to hunting when Whooping Cranes are present and somewhat restricted at other times. That enhances the appeal for autumn visitation because it is one of the few wildlife areas
Wilson’s Phalaropes, spring migration. – © Bob Gress
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White-rumped Sandpipers, spring migration. – © Bob Gress
in the state that is closed to shooting during significant periods in October and November. Unfortunately, much of that may change if the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is pushed by individuals within its own staff and our state agency’s wildlife section to transform the refuge into a facility emulating a “public hunting area.” In the plan being considered, hunting for virtually everything in season within the state would be open on much of the refuge and that use would generally eclipse other visitor opportunities and interests. Although hunting is generally compatible (and often complementary as an additional “public use”) in most other places, an excessive amount of hunting disturbance here could be at the expense of conservation of a number of rare, at-risk, threatened or endangered species. With continuous loss of wildlife habitat and declining game species populations, and the trend of waning numbers of hunters and the resultant decreased revenue from licenses, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) has been advocating to have every available piece of public land opened to maximize hunting opportunities. In May 2013, Audubon of Kansas filed a comprehensive statement on the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment for the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. You can read our perspective on AOK’s website at:
www.audubonofkansas.org. A decision on a future direction for the refuge by the Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected at any time. The deadline for official comments has passed, but as constituents and taxpayers anyone can always share their thoughts with the USFWS Regional Director.* Be sure to express appreciation for improvements in the final plan. As acknowledged in the draft, “Peak birder visitation usually coincides with the peak shorebird and waterfowl migration seasons in the spring and fall. Besides birders, Quivira Refuge is popular with more general wildlife observers who visit to view deer, beaver, bald eagles, and the considerable amount of geese, ducks, and cranes that regularly visit during the same period. A large percentage of visiting birders and general wildlife enthusiasts are also photographers. Many professional and other experienced photographers use the refuge on a regular basis.” Unfortunately, the draft plan devotes very little attention to maintaining the quality and future enhancement of wildlife observation and photography opportunities. The draft plan raises the prospect that the refuge would be open for various hunting activities through most of the year. The exception being during part of the peak nesting season. Substantial portions of the refuge would even be open to hunting when Whooping Cranes are present in other parts of the refuge.
*Noreen Walsh, Regional Director, Mountain-prairie Region , US Fish & Wildlife Service, PO Box 25486 DFC, Denver, CO 80225, Noreen_Walsh@fws.gov
American White Pelican, September. – © Bob Gress
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Whooping Cranes, November. – © Bob Gress
Migrating Whooping Cranes Deserve Priority for this One Migratory Staging Area To paraphrase an observant biologist at the refuge, the protection and safety of these birds are paramount. Often Whooping Cranes arrive at Quivira weary and hungry from travel. Allowing them an undisturbed period on the ground with access to water, shallow water roosting sites and feeding areas is very important. That advice was published in newspapers in mid November, next to another news title declaring that “Hunting season for rare bird opens” in reference to Lesser Prairiechickens. Apparently some hunters have complained because they cannot always plan in advance for when Whooping Cranes might or might not be present on the Quivira refuge. However Cheyenne Bottoms, McPherson Wetlands, and other public hunting areas are almost always open during the various hunting seasons. In recent decades, Whooping Cranes have often been present from October 10 to November 20. Audubon of Kansas recommends standard closure between those dates, so unrealized expectations are not raised, and Whooping Cranes are not subjected to unnecessary disturbance when present, caused to leave Quivira, and being in jeopardy elsewhere by misidentification between Sandhill Cranes and Whoopers-especially during times of low light or when silhouetted against the sun or sky. Sandhill Cranes and waterfowl are hunted in most fields surrounding Quivira. Tragically a group of three Whooping Cranes where shot there in 2004. One of the most important purposes served by the Quivira NWR is as a safe, relatively “low disturbance” migratory stopover area for the one self-sustaining and rebuilding wild population of endangered Whooping Cranes. Based on the records of use in recent decades, and the absence of sufficient other wetland complexes with a similar history of use which
Ron Klataske photo
could serve as alternative migratory staging areas, the Quivira NWR appears to be the most important migratory stopover area for Whooping Cranes in the central Great Plains. Each year these birds have to survive an arduous 5,000-mile round-trip between wintering and nesting grounds. Daylight to dark hunting activities at Cheyenne Bottoms likely frighten the birds on to Quivira much of the time. Human disturbances plague many potential resting sites, and structures – especially powerlines – take a toll. Feeding in nearby grain fields is even problematic near Quivira. Many adjacent fields are leased for goose and Sandhill Crane hunting, and with a change enacted by KDWPT in 2012, Sandhill Crane shooting hours now extend from sunrise to sunset. Whooping Cranes, especially separated individuals, often flock with Sandhill Cranes.
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“On motionless wing they emerge from the lifting mists, sweep a final arc of sky, and settle in clangorous descending spirals to their feeding grounds. A new day has begun on the crane marsh.” – Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac To the fullest extent possible, Whooping Cranes should be protected from disturbance while they are present and they should be able to use the full range of suitable habitats within the Quivira NWR. The various management strategies to accomplish this objective should include reduction or elimination of vehicle activities in the immediate vicinities of night roosting, loafing and any feeding habitats they are using, as well as restrictions on human access and various activities that may result in disturbance. This should include restrictions on wildlife viewing and photography that infringe on the birds and threaten to disrupt their behavior or sense of security.
Friends of Quivira, Audubon of Kansas and others should Co-Sponsor an annual “Crane Celebration” Much more needs to be done to draw attention to the opportunity for people to see – at an appropriate distance – Whooping Cranes, and highlight this opportunity for residents and visitors. Audubon of Kansas believes that an annual earlyNovember Crane Celebration would be an ideal event for the Quivira area, and an added way to draw attention to this refuge, Kansas’ wildlife heritage, and the birds that depend on the refuge— including tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes. As stated in a “Conservation Action Plan” document prepared by an impressive task force of Whooping Crane biologists and conservation leaders: “The conservation of Whooping Cranes is often referred to as a success story – a job well done. What many may not realize is that the story of the longterm success and viability of the North American Whooping Crane has only just begun.” It has taken 75 years to bring them back from the brink of extinction. Black Rail, May. – © David Seibel
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Black Rails Nest and Many Other Rare Birds Rest at Quivira The Audubon of Kansas statement requested that rail hunting, and hunting of other webless migratory birds, not be permitted on the Quivira NWR. KDWPT authorizes shooting of Sora and Virginia Rails with an extraordinary bag limit of 25 per hunter per day and possession limit of 75. However, very little if any practical attempt is made to educate hunters of the risk of shooting other at-risk rail species. None of the rail species are abundant in Kansas and some species (including Virginia Rails) have suffered considerable declines in the past. Black Rails are designated as a state species in Need of Conservation in Kansas. Black rail populations have been declining in the eastern United States for over a century, resulting in a retraction of its breeding range, an overall reduction in the number of breeding locations within its core range, and a loss of individuals within historic strongholds. Over the past 10 to 20 years, some reports indicate that populations have declined 75% or more and have become dangerously low.
and other secretive birds. Few people have ever seen a Black Rail, and in field-hunting conditions it isn’t easy to distinguish one from a more common Sora. All are very small and do not qualify as significant table fare. A live Sora weighs 2.6 ounces, Virginal Rails weigh about 3 ounces, and Black Rails weigh 1.1 ounces. Likewise, Snipe and Woodcock (uncommon and rare at the refuge) are not always easily distinguished from Dowitchers and an array of other shorebirds. While Snipe hunting with a state waterfowl biologist, I saw him mistakenly shoot a solitary sandpiper. This happens – usually unintentionally. But there is no reason to have it occur within the critically important migratory shorebird habitat within Quivira. The disturbance of all the wetland birds present is likely a more significant factor.
Long-billed Dowitchers, migration. – © Bob Gress
The best-known and most-consistent nesting colony of Black Rails in the state of Kansas is in a flooded meadow within the Quivira NWR; however, it only accommodates a few birds. Preferred nesting sites appear to be marshy areas with stable water levels. That is a feature not common at most Kansas wetlands. Kansas ornithologists have indicated that King Rails “presumably nest at Quivira NWR,” but this has not been sufficiently documented. In the last 60 years, King Rails have all but disappeared from areas where they were once locally common, including river marshes along the Missouri River. Black Rails and King Rails are classified as “rare” on the refuge, and Virginia Rails are classified as “uncommon.” There are no compelling reasons why hunting of rails, snipe (classified as “uncommon” on the refuge) or woodcock (classified as “rare”) should be encouraged or permitted on the Quivira NWR. The refuge is a migratory stopover habitat for many similar-sized shorebird species, often using the same wet habitat. Minimizing disturbance of these species, especially considering that there are so few alternative wetlands in Kansas, should be a USFWS priority. Rail hunting requires trampling through the wet areas, flushing out these
Great Blue Heron with Carp. Black-necked Stilt flying. – © Bob Gress
White-faced Ibises, May. – © Bob Gress SPRING / SUMMER 2014
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Hunting for a Balance at Quivira It is just as appropriate to have a national wildlife refuge that is largely a “wildlife refuge” without most of it being open to extensive hunting as it is to have a national park. The parallel is the fact that the primary mission is to protect wildlife, preserve nature, and provide visitors with unique opportunities to enjoy our wildlife heritage. Those of us who enjoy hunting have no reason to feel slighted by substantial limitations (if they are established) on this one unique wildlife refuge. The presence of a “sanctuary” dramatically improves hunting opportunities for waterfowl in a large area surrounding the refuge. It is also good to keep in mind that the other three national wildlife refuges in Kansas have substantial areas open for hunting. Wildlife Management Areas (generally referred to as “public hunting areas”) provide opportunities of importance to hunters throughout the state, and the state has invested handsomely in those opportunities. As a result, public hunting is available on approximately 300,000 acres of state lands, plus federal lands including 108,000 acres at the Cimarron National Grassland, 72,000 acres at Fort Riley, 22,072 acres at the three OTHER federal refuges, along with sixteen Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and six Bureau of Reclamation (USBOR) reservoir areas. In addition, about 1.1 million acres of private land is open to public hunting with WalkIn-Hunting Area agreements. The federally-funded USDA Conservation Reserve Program enhances the habitat values and hunting potential of many of these acres under contract, as well as other lands within the 2.3-million acre total enrolled in the program in Kansas. Many of these fields are enrolled in the Walk-in-Hunting program, and others are available for “Hunting with Permission” as are most of the rural lands within Kansas – the vast majority of the state’s 52 million acres.
Snow Geese, November. – © Bob Gress
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Snow Geese, November. – © Bob Gress
Recognizing the Myth of “Exclusive” Funding and the Value of Partnerships One individual wrote to AOK suggesting that nonconsumptive wildlife enthusiasts shouldn’t be given any consideration because, he said, “hunters provide all the funding.” Actually, that is not true. Everyone who pays taxes contributes to MOST OF THE FUNDING (at least indirectly) for wildlife habitat conservation in this state. This includes the cost of USFWS management of the national wildlife refuges—financed by federal funding. Thus, even those who do not annually purchase KDWPT hunting, fishing or trapping licenses are equal stakeholders in stewardship decisions involving the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Our nation's general funds also pay for USDA, USACE and USBOR programs—including the acquisition and most of the management of the hundreds of thousands of acres administered by those agencies in Kansas. Another major program financed by all taxpayers is for contracts involving all of the 2.3 million acres
enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program in the state. CRP plantings on private land have become the most important habitat for Pheasant production and hunting opportunities. It alone represents an annual investment of $95 million. CRP is also important for both species of deer, Northern Bobwhites and other wildlife. In addition, it became a major part of the habitat that has allowed Lesser Prairie-Chickens to hang on with a potentially-viable population. In addition, general funds through a Farm Bill grant program provided KDWPT with $3 million in 2011-2012 to sign up and finance agreements with landowners to provide Walk-In Hunting access, and for the fishing access program. Funding for hunting access is complementary to the CRP. It would be desirable to expand the program to provide wildlife viewing/nature appreciation access on other private land. Other programs including the Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program, Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program, Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), and USFWS Partners for Wildlife program are financed with general revenue funds at the federal level. Approximately $26 million in EQIP funding was expended in Kansas in 2013, some of that is beneficial for wildlife (and certainly for water quality). In an overarching context, it should be kept in mind that the interests of all wildlife enthusiasts – that includes folks who hunt and others who do not – are generally complementary and need to be combined whenever possible to help provide support for habitat and conservation programs. (Unlike Missouri with a 1/10th of a percent sales tax and a number of other states, Kansas does not have an adequate way for the general public to
Prairie-chickens. – © Bob Gress
financially contribute to the state’s wildlife agency. As a result, the agency’s focus is almost exclusively on species that are priced with a license.) The total fish and wildlife (staff and operations) budget for KDWPT is currently $22 million.
We Support Return of Prairie-chickens to the Refuge and Restoration of Prairie Landscapes
Quivira: A Flagship Attraction
Following an Ecotourism Summit in April 2012, Governor Sam Brownback appointed a committee to explore ways to enhance opportunities for wildlife viewing, nature appreciation and other outdoor activities in Kansas. The report published a year later, Kansas Ecotourism 2013, is available online. In the ﬁrst meeting Governor Brownback expressed the desire for quick, focused action. He mentioned the Flint Hills and Cheyenne Bottoms among places in Kansas where he believes the state can accomplish a great deal in a short period of time. We hope that KDWPT implements this philosophy and many of the speciﬁc recommendations at Cheyenne Bottoms. Meanwhile Quivira National Wildlife Refuge is recognized as a ﬂagship attraction for wildlife viewing and photography, leading an impressive central Kansas armada that includes the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area. As articulated in the Executive Summary, “Quivira NWR has two wildlife drives, an observation tower, a nature center, and a series of hiking trails. Quivira is best conﬁgured and enhanced for ecotourism. The state’s Cheyenne Bottoms WMA allows access along the levee roads, but these may or may not be adjacent to areas of shorebirds and waterfowl concentrations. The artiﬁcial wetland built behind the Kansas Wetland Education Center has been dry for much of its brief life.” Quivira isn’t anything close to Yellowstone in size; in fact it is almost exactly one percent as large. But in terms of wildlife viewing and photography opportunities, it is the closest thing we have in Kansas to compare to Yellowstone or the Everglades National Park. In addition to prairie and water birds, Quivira’s majestic White-tailed Deer bucks have been the focus for the photography pursuits of outdoor writers.
The “Comprehensive Plan” goes a bit afield by suggesting, at this point, that if a Prairie-chicken population can be reestablished on the refuge, hunting should be allowed “if a refuge population can support it or for health purposes, as decided by the State.” First, any decision to initiate shooting of Prairie-chickens on the refuge should be made by the USFWS. Second, to the best of our knowledge, it is doubtful there will be any reason to believe that Prairie-chickens will have to be hunted for “health purposes.” Third, it is highly unlikely that a substantial population of Greater (or Lesser) Prairie-chickens will be reestablished on the refuge within the foreseeable future. It is even less likely if the refuge implements the transformation of management to dramatically expand public hunting areas and seasons on this relatively isolated parcel of prairie. Prairiechickens are very sensitive to excessive human activity. Bringing a sustainable breeding population of chickens back would be SPRING / SUMMER 2014
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miraculous. If it occurs it will be in part because sufficient expanses of unfragmented native grasslands will have been restored. The ongoing removal of invasive patches of trees, combined with patch burning, enhances the prospects of success. Construction of additional roads and parking lots should be minimized. If more roads, parking lots, signage and water control structures (dams) are build, as outlined in the plan to accommodate more public hunting pressure, they may contribute to more prairie fragmentation and disturbance by all users.
Burrowing Owl on prairie dog mound at Cheyenne Bottoms in 2007. That prairie dog colony no longer exists. – © Judd Patterson
The Refuge has Unrealized Potential for Black-tailed Prairie Dogs, Burrowing Owls and Black-footed Ferrets.
draft plan. If half of the 4,163 acres of predominantly “nativeshort-mid, sparse-medium-grassland habitat” described in the report is devoted to establishment of a prairie dog complex over the next ten years, it could be ecologically significant for many of the associated wildlife species—and the complex could become a suitable site for reintroduction of Black-footed Ferrets.
Although the plan states that the USFWS will: “Actively conserve and, as appropriate, improve environmental conditions within refuge boundaries to promote sustainable native ecological communities and support species of concern associated with this region of the Great Plains,” there are gaps in the ecological overview.
One of the most severe limitations for success of Black-footed Ferret reintroductions, and recovery of this endangered species, is the impact of Sylvatic Plague across most of the western part of the United States. Fortunately, it has not been documented anywhere within 150 miles of Quivira. Thus, within the foreseeable future, prairie dog colonies (and ferrets) would likely be secure from that threat within Quivira.
One obvious gap is the absence of planning for the conservation and management of Black-tailed Prairie Dogs and the diverse and numerous associated species. At present there is one small colony on the very northeast edge of the refuge, and because of its severely limited size it is of little significance even as a potential breeding area for Burrowing Owls or other species. Grazing does not appear to be sufficiently intensive in potential habitats to allow expansion within the refuge, and illegal shooting appears to occur. Prairie dogs would, if reasonably abundant within an area of the refuge, provide a reliable food source for Ferruginous Hawks and Golden Eagles when they are present in winter and/or during migration. Black-tailed Prairie Dogs are recognized as a keystone grassland species. Black-tailed Prairie Dogs should be recognized as a focal species for conservation of grassland communities and also recognized as a valuable resource for wildlife viewing and photography.
If Audubon of Kansas’ recommendations are adopted by the USFWS for the Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment, we envision the future of the Quivira NWR as a refuge of continuing and increasing importance for Whooping Cranes, and numerous other wetland as well as grassland Species in Need of Conservation, possibly including a site contributing to the recovery of Black-footed Ferrets.
The refuge encompasses 9,512 acres of native, grassdominated vegetation outside of what is defined as wetland. It is obvious that there are sufficient grassland areas within the Quivira refuge to support larger colonies of Black-tailed Prairie Dogs for conservation purposes. This goal can be achieved uniquely in this “mid-grass prairie” area if neglect and illegal shooting are replaced with purposeful management. It can readily be accomplished Burrowing Owls. Norton County. – © David Seibel without creating problems on adjacent lands. A mosaic of colonies with short grass combined with areas of taller vegetation Bob Gress is former director of the Great Plains Nature would benefit focal species including Burrowing Owls, Western Center in Wichita. Judd Patterson, originally from Salina, is an Meadowlarks, Grasshopper Sparrows, Field Sparrows, Lark employee of the National Park Service in Miami, Florida. David Sparrows and Upland Sandpipers. Seibel is a biology professor at Johnson County Community It is important for USFWS to recognize that the Quivira NWR presents an opportunity to establish a prairie dog colony complex of regional significance that goes far beyond that envisioned in the
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College in Kansas City. Together, they created BirdsInFocus.com to market their bird photography and further their messages of conservation and the beauty of nature."
Article by Joyce Wolf
“Saving Cheyenne Bottoms – Part Two”
n the Winter 2012 / Spring 2013 issue of Prairie Wings, Sil Pembleton did a masterful job of recounting the story of Jan Garton’s herculean efforts to bring together Kansas’ conservation organizations for the purpose of working jointly to secure funding for the restoration of Cheyenne Bottoms. After the success in obtaining funding for restoration, a 1992 Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks (KDWP) document gave “next steps” for restoration and increased public support for Cheyenne Bottoms. Prior to that Jan had written a series of Position Papers that was published by the Kansas Audubon Council (KAC), stating its position on various environmental issues, including the need for restoration of Cheyenne Bottoms. Each statement was accompanied by supporting data. The KAC position was informed by “Cheyenne Bottoms Environmental Assessment” which was completed in 1985-86. The report called for: construction of water-control structures, pumping stations, and a deep-water pool for better management of available water. It also suggested that a Visitor/Education Center should be built and a self-guided auto tour should be developed. One of the experiences I shared with Jan was a trip to Topeka to talk with agency officials about the Center. After the successes Audubon members and other conservation partners achieved in gaining statewide support for the Bottoms, Jan and I both assumed that Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) personnel would be more than willing to listen to our proposal – but no! Instead we heard every imaginable reason why a visitor center, especially one that had restroom facilities which would be open at reasonable hours to the general public, would not be feasible. The staff person we spoke with said that if anyone would come, the building would be vandalized, trashed, and every other awful situation one could imagine. But as before, Jan wouldn’t take “No” for an answer. After reading Sil’s article, if you didn’t know Jan, you understood how determined she could be and so the efforts to establish a Visitor/Education Center at Cheyenne Bottoms were begun. Eventually more reasonable minds prevailed and by 2009 the Wetlands Education Center was opened. It is managed by Ft. Hays State University, much like its Sternberg Museum, and staffed by graduate students. It is a fantastic facility with amazing displays that trace the history of Cheyenne Bottoms from its earliest days – thousands of years ago – to its current status as a haven for many species of wildlife including threatened and endangered avian species like Least Terns and Whooping Cranes. Also approximately 45% of all migratory shorebird species that nest in North America stage at the Bottoms. The Wetlands Education Center is just one site of the Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway that has been developed, and is prominently featured on the City of Great Bend’s website. When I visited the Center recently, I was so pleased that Jan Garton was featured in the video that illustrates the recent history of the Bottoms. SPRING / SUMMER 2014
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Franklin's Gulls and White Pelicans at Cheyenne Bottoms. © David Seibel
But I’m getting ahead of “Saving Cheyenne Bottoms – Part Two” efforts. There was one last hurdle to overcome: upholding the Bottoms’ authorized water rights. Surfacewater rights from Walnut Creek were secured in 1948 and from the Arkansas River in 1954. Similar to the early 2013 summer months, the area at the time had suffered from drought and part of the restoration plan included upholding the Bottoms’ water rights. Again the Kansas Audubon Council, the Kansas Wildlife Federation (KWF) and the Kansas Natural Resources Council (KNRC) worked jointly to ensure those rights would be upheld, which meant that litigation had to ensue. The Kansas Audubon Council was extremely fortunate to be represented by John Simpson, who also was legal counsel for the KNRC. Without John’s passionate and competent involvement, which he provided pro bono, KAC would not have been able to be represented during the many days of formal testimony. The case to uphold Cheyenne Bottoms’ water rights were conducted in Great Bend with then Chief Engineer, David L. Pope, of the Division of Water Resources (DWR) within the Kansas Department of Agriculture, acting as hearing officer. During the time I represented the Kansas Audubon Council as its legislative liaison, I had the chance to listen to David testify before the House and Senate Natural Resources committees. He always was precise in his presentations and I believe he was much admired for his professionalism, integrity and knowledge of water laws. It should not surprise anyone that behind the scenes, he was considered the “Kansas Water Czar.” In order to appreciate the significance of his decision in the Cheyenne Bottoms’ water-rights hearings, a bit of background on Kansas’ water law is needed. “First in Time is First in Right” encapsulates the essence of the law. That is, an entity that files for an appropriation of water for a beneficial use and the application is approved, that water right precedes those of later or “junior” waterrights’ holders. As stated in the Kansas Water Office’s website: “This principle is applied regardless of the type of use.” This ultimately was extremely important as I believe that many involved in the case had assumed that water for wildlife would not be judged as important as water for irrigating crops. Kansas statute 82a-707 provides: “…the date of priority of an appropriation right, and not the purpose of use, determines the right to divert and use water at any time when the supply is not sufficient to satisfy all water rights that attach to it.” The statutes continue: “The Chief Engineer shall enforce and administer the laws of the state pertaining to the beneficial use of water and shall control, conserve, regulate, allot
and aid in the distribution of the water resources of the state for the benefits and beneficial uses of all its inhabitants in accordance with the rights of priority of appropriation.” The other tenet of water-rights law in place at the time was “Use It or Lose It.” This meant that water-right holders who had been allotted a certain number of acre-feet/year [which means one acre (43,560 square feet) covered by one foot of water = 325,829 gallons] were obligated to use the full allocation, regardless of weather conditions, or lose its use for that year. This is sort of like places in metropolitan areas that have timers on their lawnwatering systems so that they often water even in the midst of a downpour! Other crucial tenets of the law are: water is appropriated based on safe-yield; new appropriations cannot impair existing water rights; and water rights can be administered if impairment occurs. In September 1989 a study (DWR report No. 89-1) of water availability in Walnut Creek, its tributaries, their alluvial valleys, and hydraulically connected aquifers was completed by James Bagley of the Technical Services Section of the Division of Water Resources (DWR). The next month, Robert Meinen, then Secretary of KDWP, in response to a lawsuit brought by KWF against the department for failing to uphold the Bottoms’ water rights, requested that proceedings for designation of an Intensive Groundwater Use Control Area (IGUCA) be initiated. A similar request was made by Groundwater Management District (GMD) #5, and they included suggestions for designation of the area to be managed intensively. There are 5 GMDs in Kansas and currently 9 IGUCAs – most of which are within the boundaries of a GMD. It should also be noted that the Chief Engineer can initiate IGUCA proceedings on his/her own for the designation of an IGUCA outside the boundaries of an existing groundwater management district under conditions where: groundwater is being depleted; preventable waste of water is occurring; water quality is being impaired; or other conditions
“Dr. Gonzalo Castro, Program Manager, Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network in Manomet, Massachusetts, testified that his research showed that Cheyenne Bottoms is one of the most important wetlands in the world.” 26 Prairie Wings SPRING / SUMMER 2014
Cross section shows land-surface recharge area (green) where precipitation percolates by gravity to the water table (dashed line), then moves through the aquifer (light blue) and discharges to the stream or river.
Similar cross section showing how excessive groundwater withdrawals will lead to streams and rivers being dewatered as the water table falls below the base of the stream. (Illustrations modified from USGS Open File Report 90-183, published in 1990)
exist within the area in question which require regulation in the public interest. The Chief Engineer determined that there were to be formal and informal phases of the proceedings. The formal phase was to gather evidence supporting the need for an IGUCA; which corrective actions should be adopted; where the boundaries for it would be established; and which groups would be a part of the formal phase. They were: Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks; Big Bend GMD #5; Walnut Creeks Basin Association; City of Great Bend; Kansas Audubon Council; Kansas Natural Resources Council (KNRC); Kansas Wildlife Federation (KWF); Mid-Kansas Quality Water Association; Central Kansas Utility Company, Inc.; Kansas Farm Bureau; City of Hoisington; and the Wet Walnut Creek Watershed, Joint District No. 58. The informal phase gave an opportunity for the public to be heard and was held on the evening of December 5, 1990 in Great Bend. At that point many landowners who farmed in the area gave testimony about the necessity of irrigation to support their farms and rural communities. Others said that irrigation had been responsible for development of the livestock industry which
expanded the tax base, and others that Rural Water Districts mostly serve small domestic users and if water use was to be curtailed it would create a hardship. Many testified as to their remembrance of how the Walnut Creek used to flow, depending on weather conditions, but others recollected that it was dry in many instances and after floods the creek had silted in. Questions were posed as to which year should be used as a benchmark for determining declines in groundwater levels. Some asked what actually a wetland is and whether Cheyenne Bottoms was conserving its water use. John Kraft, speaking on behalf of KNRC, said that group’s position was that if waterconservation technologies were implemented, 20-50% of the water being pumped would not be needed. He indicated a willingness of the three environmental groups to advocate for assistance from the State of Kansas to provide no-interest, short-term loans for purchase of water-conservation equipment. Furthermore he said that similar, water-conservation measures could be adopted by municipalities.
Summaries of formal testimony, which began on December 4, 1990 in Great Bend, provide insight into the areas of contention: whether water wells used by the City of Great Bend affected Cheyenne Bottoms’ surface-water right; whether siltation from floods had raised the base level of the Walnut Creek and that was the reason it was often dry; if watershed structures (terraces, impoundments, etc.) held more water on the land so there was not as much run-off after a rainfall; the degree to which the aquifers had declined due to irrigation; how much water was being lost to evaporation at Cheyenne Bottoms; whether only the most junior water-rights’ holders should be cut off; and whether the alluvial aquifers and more deeply buried formations under the Arkansas River and Walnut Creek were interconnected, which would affect the location and extent of the IGUCA. Another item where the experts disagreed was the crop yields that could be expected with less water being withdrawn for irrigation. The only thing that seemed to be in general agreement was that there had not been a significant decline in the amount of annual precipitation in the area. The report mentioned above by James Bagley of DWR proved essential to the decision-making process: the report’s purpose was to determine if any additional water was available for appropriation in Walnut Creek, its tributaries and their valley alluviums in
"The only thing that seemed to be in general agreement was that there had not been a significant decline in the amount of annual precipitation in the area." SPRING / SUMMER 2014
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Barton, Rush, Ness, Lane, Scott and Pawnee counties. The report concluded that streamflow in Walnut Creek had decreased substantially over the past 30 years; that this decline was not due to climate change as annual rainfall had not changed significantly; and base flow in the lower part of the basin was now virtually non-existent. The report also concluded that groundwater levels had declined in parts of the alluvial valley since 1960 by as much as 18 feet. Dr. Gonzalo Castro, Program Manager, Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network in Manomet, Massachusetts, testified that his research showed that Cheyenne Bottoms is one of the most important wetlands in the world and is one of the largest in the US. The Bottoms’ importance is its geographic position within the Central Flyway, which allows migratory birds to stop to build up fat for fuel for continuing their spring and fall migrations. If denied this opportunity to build reserves, birds would be unable to complete their migrations or they would be unable to breed. He also said that the Bottoms was more important during spring months and that during a dry year, any water would be extremely crucial to provide birds with food to ensure their survival. Matt Scherer III, Water Conservation Engineer, DWR, testified to several interesting points: irrigators who do not have meters on their wells probably underestimate their usage compared to those with meters; and under intense water-management practices, yields for corn, grain sorghum and soybeans would not be adversely affected in most years.
to the Bottoms by source is: 25,000 acre-feet from direct precipitation; 17,000 acre-feet from the natural drainage basin; 37,360 acre-feet from the Arkansas River and Walnut Creek, for a total of 79,360 acre-feet. He also calculated that of the two major tributaries to Cheyenne Bottoms – Blood and Deception Creeks – marshes within those watersheds reduced the inflows to the Bottoms by approximately 60%. He also concluded that evaporation loss from the Bottoms averaged over 60 inches per year. Koelliker thought that water-control structures within watersheds (farm ponds) and land use (cropped vs. grass) could have significant effects on the amount of water reaching surfacewater creeks and streams. He recommended that Cheyenne Bottoms be permitted to divert at a higher rate than was currently permitted to capture flood flows.
Tom McClain, associate section chief of Geohydrology of the Kansas Geological Survey, spoke about the report which he coauthored: “Cheyenne Bottoms: An Environmental Assessment.” He said that the primary source of water within the Walnut Basin is in the alluvial deposits of the valley and not from more deeply buried formations. He also verified previous testimony that there had been no long-term change in average annual precipitation from 1946 to 1985. He was cross examined about: groundwater level fluctuations; low-flow measurements on Walnut Creek (in the 1950s); about the circumstances that would have to be present for a water well to have a direct impact on streamflow; that water wells for the city of Great Bend would be replenished by the Arkansas River and its alluvium; and pumping the city’s wells would have little impact on streamflow in Walnut Creek.
Carl Nuzman of Layne GeoSciences, another subcontractor for HNTB, did a study on watershed structures on groundwater recharge and its implied impact on streamflow in the Walnut Creek. He concluded that holding water in watershed structures led to fewer flooding events and therefore less recharge to bank storage. His calculations estimated evaporation loss from the Bottoms was about 40 inches per year. Nuzman conducted simulations of stream/aquifer/irrigation interactions under various conditions and concluded that with irrigation at the then-current level, the aquifer would continue to be de-watered without some type of regulation, restrictions, or recharge enhancements. He also said that the suggested western boundary for the IGUCA had not sustained significant drops in groundwater levels and that most of the curtailment needed to be from Rush Center to Great Bend. He agreed that an IGUCA would be desirable; however, additional data should be collected to make refinements to water-use controls.
James Koelliker, KSU Professor of Water Resources in Civil Engineering, testified about his “Summary Report Estimating the Future Water Supply for Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area in Kansas,” which he had prepared as a private consultant for Howard, Needles, Tammen and Bergendoff (HNTB). Taking all areas into consideration, he estimated the long-term water supply
Rollan Stukenholtz, General Manager, Servi-Tech, of Dodge City testified about a report he had co-authored: “The Economic Impact of Irrigation Water for Crop Production in Rush and Barton Counties, Kansas.” Much of the report assumed that with an IGUCA, no irrigation would be permitted in Barton and Rush counties. This would result in significant loss in both commodity
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Most importantly Mr. Pope stated: “that it is in the public interest to: a) regulate groundwater and surface water, b) allow the aquifer to recharge and c) manage water in the area consistent with the long-term sustainability of the area’s water resources.” The order also defined “waste of water” and provided for suspension of a water right found out of compliance with that definition. Interestingly, junior water-right holders were not cut off completely. Vested rights were to continue to have their entire water right. Senior appropriation rights (those before October 1, 1965) could use 12 inches in Barton County, 13 inches in Rush County and 14 inches in Ness County. Junior appropriation rights were allocated 44% of what senior rights were permitted in the three counties. The order also established an advisory committee to gather data to make recommendations to further refine any of the corrective-control The course of the Arkansas River, southwest of Great Bend, KS on September 1, 2013, provisions of the order. It also set up a fiveshowing ATV tracks and a few puddles of water remaining from early August rains. year evaluation timeline so that data could be collected, suggestions from the IGUCA sales and input costs – most of which would occur in the two Advisory Committee for alterations to the original order could be counties. He verified that comparable yields could be achieved considered and possibly amended into the order. with more efficient irrigation technology; however, this would The Chief Engineer also ordered that the amount allocated to a mean that farmers would have to purchase new and improved water user for a five-year period may be used at the water user’s equipment. He recommended metering of irrigation wells and at discretion within the five year period, provided that the water user some time in the future a determination of how much water use can shall not exceed the certified or permitted amount in any one year be reduced without causing severe economic hardship. under the water right. This initially changed the “Use it or Lose it” After taking formal testimony for 18 days spread out over regulation. Later further changes were proposed: on April 9, 1996 several months, the hearings were concluded on April 18, 1991. the Walnut Creek IGUCA Advisory Committee made The Chief Engineer ordered that all written statements and recommendations to the Chief Engineer to: increase allocations for evidentiary materials should be submitted to him by May 1, 1991 – the City of Otis helium plant; to allow carry over any allocation of which was later extended to August 19, 1991. unused water in the five year period 1992 to 1996 to the new five year period 1997 to 2001; and to compute allocations for water What I have tried to condense here represents more than 90 rights that had been in CRP during 1985 to 1990. The Chief pages of testimony by experts from federal, state, municipal, and Engineer concluded that these recommendations would not injure private entities. And these 90 pages do not include all the charts, any existing water rights and granted the recommendations. graphs, maps, and other exhibits which are referred to in the testimony summaries. Obviously it was an enormous task to sort Although Cheyenne Bottoms was granted a surface-water right through the often conflicting testimony, and make sense of all that from the Arkansas River in 1954, this was not addressed by the had been presented. But that’s exactly what David Pope, Chief Chief Engineer’s order. The IGUCA only applied to its water right Engineer of DWR, managed to accomplish. His conclusions cover from the Walnut Creek. Approximately one-half (48.68%) of the another 10 pages of orders and recommendations. Interestingly, the Bottoms’ total authorized water rights come from the Arkansas decision was announced on Kansas Day – January 29, 1992. River. Using Google Maps, you’ll get a bird’s eye view of the area from Great Bend westward along the Arkansas River. The number The key points of the order were: an IGUCA should be of irrigated crop-circles is astounding. And in checking stream established; both irrigation and farm practices (terraces, tillage, flow in the Arkansas River on the US Geological Survey’s Real farm ponds and watershed structures) were responsible for declines Time Water Data, as part of the National Water Information in base flow of Walnut Creek; that no more than 22,700 acreSystem, it is quite evident that there has been a steady decline in feet/year should be permitted to be withdrawn from the aquifer the amount of water in the river since the mid-1960s. Examining within the boundaries of the IGUCA as set forth in the order, flows for the period 2000 to 2013, except for occasional heavy which included parts of Barton, Rush and Ness counties; flow inundations, the river was nearly devoid of water flowing within its meters had to be installed on all irrigation wells and surface water banks; that is, the spike in flows rise dramatically, then plummet diversions within the IGUCA; and within these boundaries no back to near zero immediately after the rains. I believe it would be further groundwater or surface water could be appropriated except correct to conclude that in most cases, there is not water available for domestic use or emergency needs. SPRING / SUMMER 2014
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in the Arkansas River to divert to Cheyenne Bottoms. Because of the statewide drought that began in 2011, “DWR issued a one-time, Drought-focused Term (DT) permit to allow holders of existing water rights the flexibility to borrow a portion of the next year’s (2012) authorized quantity in order to complete their 2011 growing season.” And as we all know, 2012 was equally bad for its lack of precipitation. In response, the DWR worked with the 2012 Kansas Legislature to further revise the “Multi-Year Flex Account” program, which allows the water-right holder to exceed their annual authorized quantity in any year, but they cannot exceed the total permitted amount authorized over the fiveyear period. In 2011, DWR issued 2,250 drought-term permits. DWR has also put into place a series of significant fines for overpumping; that is withdrawing more water than a water right is permitted. Beginning in 2013 the following is the schedule of consequences for violating this rule:
n First offense: Notice of Non-compliance (NONC).
n Second offense: Monetary fine of $1,000 and a reduction in authorized quantity for the following irrigation season by two times the amount overpumped. n Third offense: Monetary fine of $1,000 per day of overpumping (capped at $10,000) and a one-year suspension.
n Fourth offense: Water right revocation. The water could become available for appropriation to someone else if located in an area not closed to new applications. Further research has shown that in Ness and Rush counties, fewer than 25 DroughtTerm (DT) Permits were issued in each county. However for Barton County, 67 DT Permits were issued for the entire county and 2,304 acre-feet over the permitted amount was withdrawn. Most of the DT permits appear to be in the southern portion of the county, following the course of the Arkansas River, so it appears that either none were asked for or permitted in the Walnut Creek IGUCA. Perhaps more telling are the 2011 data for Pawnee County, through which the Arkansas River would flow. Of the 16,139 acre-feet authorized to 104 DT Permit requests, 5506 acre-feet of water was used in excess of the amount authorized. Using rounded numbers (325,000 x 5,500) this is equal to
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WATER CONFERENCE NOTES:
At the Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas, held in late October, a member of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors stated that there was going to be a planning process to establish a 50-year vision for future water use. This vision was to “ensure Kansas is capable of providing adequate water supply to meet the needs of agriculture, industry and residential use.” Hopefully this explanatory statement was an oversight and not a policy recommendation No mention was made of water for Wildlife, Recreation, or Conservation, even though each of the Basin Advisory Committees has a member representing those interests in the State Water Planning process. A mission statement has been developed and objectives and tactics established.
Perhaps most startling of all was learning that 70% of Kansans get their drinking water from reservoirs, and that these lakes have been silting in at a far more rapid rate than originally predicted. Currently, the most critical of these is John Redmond, whose estimated cost for dredging comes in at about $25,000,000. Later we learned that the Legislature recently took General Fee Funds from the State Water Plan Fund (about $6 million annually), and diverted those dollars to other uses, thus depleting planning money and dollars for conservation practices that might have helped prevent some of the siltation of the reservoirs. It was somewhat disconcerting that the same issues that were “thorny” twenty years ago still remain to be resolved: the Ogallala aquifer is being depleted so that questions abound as to the future for western Kansas communities; inter-basin transfers are being considered to augment areas that don’t receive enough precipitation to support the human population; and although some water-quality issues have subsided, others related to nutrient levels that promote harmful algal blooms have arisen.
On the last day of the conference, I happened to pick up a publication from "The Kansas Aqueduct Project" whose motto is "Kansas Grows Where Water Flows." The publication appears to have been put together by GMD #3 in southwest Kansas, which is part of the Kansas Aqueduct Coalition. It shows a map of the proposed aqueduct, reaching from far northeast Kansas to somewhere in the western third of the state (but considerably north of GMD #3). If I understand the concept, they want to divert Missouri River "high flows" during flood events; thereby preventing floods along the Missouri River in that state. It calls for a large reservoir to be constructed in northeast Kansas and a "south route was found engineering feasible and the least expensive route identified." The publication further explains that the Kansas Water Authority acted to begin evaluating the technical, legal, political, financial and other aspects of the feasibility of the Missouri River Aqueduct project at its May 2013 meeting in Newton, KS. In 2012 the Kansas Legislature, through Senate Bill 310, made progress toward encouraging groundwater conservation. The bill established something called a Locally Enhanced Management Area (LEMA). As explained by the KS Water Authority, “LEMAs provide a mechanism for stakeholders to develop groundwater conservation plans for areas within a Groundwater Management District (GMD), which can contain mandatory provisions. The LEMA process provides protection for stakeholders as their voluntary plan cannot become more restrictive than proposed, by limiting the options of the State. A LEMA goes through two public hearings to review legal conditions and findings of fact. If favorable, the Chief Engineer has options to: 1) Accept the LEMA plan as proposed; 2) Reject the LEMA plan as insufficient to address the conditions; or 3) Return the LEMA plan with reasons for the return, perhaps with proposed modifications based on testimony given at the public hearing. If option 3 occurs, the GMD may revise and resubmit the LEMA plan or choose not to resubmit. If option 1 occurs, the Chief Engineer orders the LEMA, which would then have the force of law.”
If you are interested in following up on any of these water-related issues, be sure to visit the Kansas Water Office’s website to check on scheduled meetings of the various Basin Advisory Committees and the KS Water Authority. Many of the relevant documents can be downloaded as PDF files.
My husband, Ron, and I traveled to Great Bend in late August 2013 to visit the Wetlands Education Center and Cheyenne Bottoms. While in the area we learned that from June 2012 until early August 2013, Cheyenne Bottoms was completely dry. We asked if irrigation was taking place in the area during that time; the answer was: “Yes, but there probably wouldn’t have been water in Walnut Creek anyway.” While in the area we also traveled to view the Arkansas River southwest of Great Bend. It was full, not of water, but ATV tracks in the river bed. There were only a few scattered puddles from the recent August rains. The diversion canal from the Arkansas River northward has been replaced with concrete pipe in order to more efficiently carry any surface water that might be available to Cheyenne Bottoms. But with the excesses of groundwater withdrawals in that area, the likelihood of restoring minimum stream flows in the Arkansas River remains questionable. Diversion structure on the Walnut Creek which permits surface water to be transported to Cheyenne Bottoms.
1,787,500,000 gallons of water. Carrying the calculations further, this means that on average, each DT permit holder pumped approximately 53 acre-feet more than the authorized amount. Because the penalties for overpumping did not go into effect until 2013, there were no repercussions for these violations. After attending the 2013 Governor’s Conference: “Water and the Future of Kansas” I learned that these drought-term permits were not repeated in 2012 or 2013. It remains to be seen if these changes in water-rights authorizations within the Walnut Creek IGUCA will prove to be problematic for Cheyenne Bottoms in the long term. During an extremely dry year, irrigators would tend to pump any carried-over unused water from previous years. Although flexibility may be beneficial to irrigators, monitoring of periodic increases in aquifer withdrawals and the subsequent effects on streamflow in the diversion canals should be tracked. However, the results of the “Impact Analysis of the Walnut Creek IGUCA” by Bill Golden and John Leatherman, both KSU professors, provide some assurance that the control measures benefitted the agricultural sector as well. They studied the economic factors over the time period from 1985 through 2005 and concluded that the values of irrigated crops inside the IGUCA and outside it were not statistically different except during an initial adjustment time from 1992-93. According to the DWR website the next review of the Walnut Creek IGUCA is to be completed by June 15, 2015.
These observations lead one to ask several important questions: who is monitoring the total amount of groundwater being withdrawn within the Walnut Creek IGUCA? The limitation in the IGUCA order was no more than 22,700 acrefeet/year. Are irrigators complying with annual reporting requirements? Have the groundwater levels in these irrigation wells been declining and if so, who is tracking that? Has the Kansas Department of Agriculture updated its records to indicate any significant change in annual precipitation data since 2000 (the last year posted on its website)? And most importantly, how much of Cheyenne Bottoms’senior surface-water rights are actually available to be diverted? I fervently hope that we will not have to engage in another “Saving Cheyenne Bottoms – Part Three” to ensure its water rights from the Arkansas River are upheld. To conclude on a much more positive note, many of the suggestions and recommendations made by the Kansas Audubon Council’s position paper on Cheyenne Bottoms have been fulfilled: funding for restoration was secured; water rights guaranteed from the Walnut River; greater flexibility to move water within the Bottoms was achieved; the Wetlands Education Center has been built; the auto tour has been incorporated into the “Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway” and public interest and support was increased. These certainly are notable successes for each group that took part in the various phases of the story of “Saving Cheyenne Bottoms.” And when there is water in the Bottoms, it is a wondrous place to visit.
Joyce met Ron Wolf at the University of Cincinnati, where she graduated with a BS degree in bacteriology and he with a BS in geology. Joyce’s first interest in water-related issues came while working for the US Public Health Service (later to become EPA) doing water-quality studies on the Ohio River. Ron worked as a hydrologist for the US Geological Survey in Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Wyoming and Kansas. Joyce served as the legislative liaison for the Kansas Audubon Council from 1988 to 1993; helped found and was Executive Director of the Kansas Land Trust; and currently serves on the Grassland Heritage Foundation board, and as secretary for the Audubon of Kansas board. Ron currently serves on the board of Douglas County Rural Water District #3. They both serve on the Jayhawk – Photo by Mehrzad Alison Audubon Society board of directors.
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“Treat the Earth well. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children”
– Ancient Indian Proverb
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Include a Bequest in Your Will or Trust (specific property, cash donation, or a share of the residual estate). You can make a gift for the future of Audubon of Kansas programs in a way that does not affect your options during your lifetime. You may change your mind on beneficiaries at any time if these assets are needed for other purposes. Such a bequest may, however, provide an eventual estate tax deduction. Persons wishing to make a bequest to Audubon of Kansas, Inc. may tailor it to their individual interests or use wording similar to the following: I bequeath ___% of my residuary estate (or $_____) to Audubon of Kansas, Inc., a notfor-profit 501(C)3 conservation organization incorporated in the State of Kansas with its address at P.O. Box 256, Manhattan Kansas, 66505. Make a Gift of Land, or other Real Property. Gifts of real estate or other property are excellent ways to establish a major donation. Gifts of land that can be sold with the proceeds to be used to support general or other specific programs (in this case Audubon of Kansas programs), are often referred to as “Trade Lands.” Some parcels may be protected with conservation easements prior to sale. Proceeds can be designated for specific conservation, education or even stewardship of an established AOK sanctuary. Other donated property could include items like paintings, sculpture, books, etc. that could be used or sold to support similar purposes. Gifts of Land to be Maintained as a Wildlife Sanctuary (such as the Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary) generally require establishment of an adequate endowment to fund future operations, pay annual property taxes and ongoing stewardship of the property. Gifts of land for this purpose must be consistent with the Audubon of Kansas mission, and require Board of Trustees approval. Thus, lands destined to become a protected sanctuary or preserve are best achieved with advanced planning and notification of AOK. Cars for Conservation! Although AOK has not promoted this avenue of philanthropy, vehicles and similar property can be donated and then sold to generate funds for AOK operations. In addition, AOK is interested in receiving a vehicle to retain for business travel. Audubon of Kansas, Inc. is administered by a Board of Trustees with interests in conservation and education in Kansas, Nebraska and generally the central Great Plains and prairie states. AOK is an independent, grassroots organization that is not administered or funded by the National Audubon Society. All funds received are devoted to conservation advocacy, nature appreciation initiatives, education and stewardship (including management of wildlife sanctuaries) in this region.
Please contact any of our Trustees or AOK Executive Director, Ron Klataske at 785-537-4385 or AOK@AudubonofKansas.org for additional information.
One person can make a difference... and everyone should try 1
Larry on his motorcycle among his steers moving from one pasture paddock to another. He utilizes year-round rotational grazing.
Article by Randy Rathbun his is a story about a man. Although it involves prairie dogs, Black-footed Ferrets, the Logan County Commission, and the Kansas Court of Appeals, it is essentially the story of one man. It is a story of conviction, of perseverance and, in the end, justice. This is a story about Larry Haverfield of Logan County, Kansas. Most folks who live east of the Mississippi cannot understand the beauty of western Kansas. Ask those people what they most remember about the drive along Interstate 70 west of Hays and they usually will ponder a bit before mentioning the world’s largest prairie dog, which now hides behind a makeshift screen in Oakley, Kansas. Oakley is the largest town in Logan County and also serves as the county seat, having won that honor in 1963, beating out Russell Springs in what had become a nasty feud. When you get off the interstate at Oakley and head south and west you cannot help but notice the interesting geography in the area. West of the Monument Rocks Chalk Pyramids is Lone Butte, which stands as a sentinel over southwest Logan County. Larry and Bette Haverfield’s ranch lies at the base of the butte and spreads over almost 7,000 acres.
Western Kansas Ranchers Meet Wichita Lawyer I am proud of my roots in Ellsworth County. I grew up on a farm south of Ellsworth where the rich soil of Rice County gives way to the rolling hills of the Smoky Hills River basin. I have never thought of myself as a big-city lawyer, but I imagine I was perceived that way when Larry and Bette Haverfield and their adjoining landowner, Gordon Barnhardt came to my Wichita office in early November 2005. The County Attorney of Logan County, Andrea Wyrick, had just sent them a demand letter warning that if they had not begun “eradication” of prairie dogs on their ranch, the Logan County Prairie Dog Director would start the eradication for them and would bill them for the costs. Larry and Bette are true salt-of-the-earth west Kansas ranchers. Larry was dressed in overalls and I quickly thought of my granddad. The Haverfields were very friendly but seemed a bit uncomfortable in the office of a Wichita environmental litigator. But when Larry began to talk about his beliefs I was captivated. The Haverfields are true Teddy Roosevelt conservationists. Larry spoke with passion about the value of every species on their land.
_________________________________________________________________________ 1 John F. Kennedy
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Larry’s background is not exactly the stuff of a Horatio Alger’s novel, but it is quite impressive and stands as a testament to the American ideals of hard work and ingenuity paying off. At age fourteen, Larry started in the cattle business near Scott City, feeding them before and after school. He jokes that he married his “trophy wife” Bette, because he was captain of his high school basketball team. At the age of 27, Larry and Bette borrowed the money to purchase 2,000 acres of pasture in southern Logan County and to this day they run steers. Larry and Bette have built the operation to a total of 6,700 acres owned and about 3,000 more rented for a Texas-sized ranching operation approaching 10,000 acres. I was so impressed with the Haverfields that I agreed that day to do what I could to protect them from the County Commissioners in Logan County, who collectively were very straightforward in their beliefs that the only good prairie dog was a dead prairie dog. At the time though, we had no idea that this legal battle would not be limited to Logan County. Before it was over, the Haverfields and Barnhardts would be neck deep in a legal battle involving not only the taxpayers’ coffers of Logan County against them, but also the Kansas Farm Bureau, the Mountain States Legal Foundation (a foundation made notorious by former USDI secretary James Watt), and the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks. We immediately fired off a strongly worded, three-page letter to the County Attorney warning the county of the severe penalties under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act for violations of the Rozol label, which they planned to use for the extermination. The
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“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins- not through strength but by perseverance.” – H. Jackson Brown label at that time precluded its use in the vicinity of grazing cattle and I noted that the County had been ignoring that restriction. The strongest arrow in our quiver, however, was the well-known secondary poisoning characteristic of Rozol, which arises from raptors’ feeding on poisoned prairie dogs or the remains of dead prairie dogs that have died on the surface. In general it takes prairie dogs about twelve days to die once they have ingested a lethal dose of Rozol. We warned of the criminal liability that could arise from the death of the Ferruginous Hawks that rely on prairie dogs as a food sources as well as the Golden Eagles that frequent the area at times. When the County Attorney received our letter she punted the matter back to the County Commission for a response. The Commission’s response was to schedule an open meeting to discuss what it referred to as the “prairie dog issue.” The meeting was a donnybrook, with the anti-prairie dog forces vastly outnumbering the few environmentalists that had the courage to show up. Scorn was heaped down upon Larry as he spoke about the value of prairie dogs in our ecosystems, and on another courageous rancher who managed a complex of colonies within 1,800 acres of rangeland on his 10,000-acre ranch. Larry’s reference to prairie dogs as a keystone species and its essential role in the life of Ferruginous Hawks, Burrowing
Owls and other short-grass species was met with blank stares and disapproving grumbles from the crowd that had been whipped to a frenzy by the Kansas Farm Bureau. The Colby Free Press noted that Larry was outnumbered 100 to one in a similar meeting the previous August–but that it fazed him not in the least. The County would not budge from its reliance on a century-old statute found at K.S.A. 80-1202. This statute provides that in counties “infested” by prairie dogs, “township trustees may enter upon the lands so infested in their respective townships and make diligent efforts to exterminate all prairie dogs thereon.” The statute allows the cost of the extermination to be taxed against the property. Even though Larry was resolute, he was not unwilling to attempt to reach an amicable solution to the stalemate. After receiving information from Audubon of Kansas on management strategies that have diminished expansion of colonies onto neighboring land, Larry immediately began building a 30-yard vegetative buffer around most of the 22-mile perimeter of the Ranch. Research in South Dakota had reported promising results from the use of vegetative buffers to impede prairie dog emigration, based upon the instinctual fear of prairie dogs to enter into tall grass where they are more vulnerable to predators.
Enter the Black-Footed Ferret In September of 2005, Gordon Barhardt and Larry Haverfield invited the Executive Director of Audubon of Kansas, Ron Klataske, to visit the property to determine if there was any way in which Audubon of Kansas (AOK) could join with these ranch landowners in the effort to keep the county from eradicating the prairie dogs and much of the associated wildlife. Klataske had been on the Blackfooted Ferret Recovery Plan team two decades earlier, and he had been a member of the broad-based committee that developed the Kansas Black-tailed Prairie Dog Management and Conservation Plan between 2000-2002. Larry provided a tour of the ranchland, and the show of wildlife was incredible— including Pronghorns, Black-tailed Jack Rabbits, Burrowing Owls, hawks and eagles, and information on the abundance of Swift Foxes utilizing the property. Prairie dogs provided or enhanced the habitat and/or were the prey for these and many other species of shortgrass prairie wildlife. It was immediately apparent that this prairie dog complex fulfilled one of the top goals of the state’s prairie dog plan-scattered colonies extended over 5,000 acres.
It was also apparent that this complex was likely the most suitable location in the state for reintroduction of Black-footed Ferrets. Within two months a joint letter from these landowners, and three others was prepared and addressed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) requesting consideration of this and two other ranches for ferret reintroduction. USFWS biologists toured the property and began a yearlong process of evaluation with field studies and planning. The Haverfields and Barnhardts signed a five-year cooperative agreement for a special Section 10 experimental reintroduction of ferrets on the complex under the Endangered Species Act with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service in late November 2006. The agreement called for USFWS to provide Black-footed Ferrets for release on the Complex. The owners agreed that they would grant access to the property and would notify the service of any activity that might result in harm to the ferrets.
Larry Haverfield releases one of the first Black-footed Ferrets reintroduced in Kansas in December 2007--fifty years after the last confirmation of a BFF in Kansas. This site is on the Barnhardt property. —Ron Klataske photos
Black-footed Ferrets, now an object of both scorn and adoration in western Kansas, were almost an afterthought like the Passenger Pigeon, the California Golden Bear (Ursus arctos californicus, an extinct subspecies of the grizzly) and countless other species that no longer inhabit this planet. A member of the weasel family, it remains the rarest land mammal in North America. Although known by Native Americans, it was first discovered and described for science as a species in 1851, fittingly by John James Audubon. The Black-footed Ferret population decreased throughout the 1900s because of the plummeting number of prairie dogs due to poisoning campaigns and conversion of prairies to cultivation. Prairie dogs are essential for Black-footed Ferret survival in the wild because they make up virtually all of their diet. Additionally, sylvatic plague has decimated prairie dog colonies in many areas in western states in recent decades-and it is equally as deadly to Black-footed Ferrets. By the mid 20th Century these ferrets were believed to be nearly extinct, and presumed to be extinct in 1979 when the last one in captivity at the time died at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Then in September 1981 a farm dog in Wyoming brought a dead one to the ranchstead and left it as a trophy for its owner. An astute taxidermist recognized the ferret and immediate efforts by wildlife officials resulted in locating the last known SPRING / SUMMER 2014
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“Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous patience.” – Admiral Hyman Rickover wild population. The Black-footed Ferrets at that location reached a peak population of 128 individuals, but it then crashed. The United States Fish & Wildlife Service and Wyoming Fish and Game Department captured the surviving eighteen and launched a captive breeding program that soon achieved astounding results. There are now an estimated 500 Black-footed Ferrets in the wild in sites in the western United States, Canada and Mexico. Although these ferrets appear like friendly, almost cuddly, little creatures they are actually silent assassins. They are very solitary little mammals that are deadly nocturnal hunters. They spend most of their lives underground in prairie dog colonies until they wander out in search of their next prey. A ferret kills prairie dogs by biting their neck–with the back being a safer place than the front. This hunting takes place at night in the prairie dog burrows, most likely catching the prairie dogs in dreamland.
“All rise, the District Court of Logan County, Kansas...” After a year of attempting to resolve the matter amicably, the County fired the first volley in the legal battle by filing a civil action on January 7, 2007 in the District Court of Logan County seeking an injunction which would prohibit the Haverfields and Barnhardts from grazing cattle when the County was attempting to come onto their property to poison the prairie dogs with Rozol. The Kansas Farm Bureau quickly filed a motion to file a brief in support of the injunction with the consent of the County. We responded, noting that the Haverfields and Barnhardts had entered an agreement with the USF&W to allow the reintroduction of Black-footed Ferrets on their properties under the authority of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. We argued that as of 2003, over 1800 ferrets had been reintroduced into the wild and that the USF&W believed this Complex was an ideal small reintroduction site.
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The legal challenge by Logan County was made more difficult by what we viewed as a win-at-any-cost mentality by the Commissioners. Early on, one of the three Commissions himself had gone onto nearby land and treated prairie dogs with Rozol in violation of the label restrictions on season of application, a violation of federal law. Clearly unrepentant, he received only a slap on the wrist from the Kansas Department of Agriculture. But it was a clear indication from the start of the lengths the commissioners would go to kill prairie dogs and halt the reintroduction of the endangered species. The County sought to vilify Larry as a contrarian who was simply a troublemaker. They conveniently ignored the fact that the Haverfields and Barnhardts had spent over $10,000 in 2006 poisoning prairie dogs on the perimeter of their property in an attempt to keep them from emigrating to their neighbors’ land. They removed 240 acres from production in building the vegetative barrier around the perimeter of the complex. The toll on the Haverfields was emotional as well as financial. However, not once did they weaken in their resolve to see the struggle through. In August 2007, as we prepared for trial we received an interesting call from the County’s counsel. The County, which was seeking an injunction to “permanently enjoin said nuisance”, had apparently concluded that the case was not in the position that they wanted. The County seemed to prefer that the Haverfields and Barnhardts be in the position of seeking injunctive relief in response to trespassing by the County onto their property to kill prairie dogs. Accordingly, they offered to dismiss the case if the landowners would simply stipulate that they had been given notice to eradicate the prairie dogs and had refused to do so. That, of course, had never been denied by the landowners so the County dismissed the case. By the fall of 2007, getting ferrets to the complex was a high priority for the USFWS. The reintroduction effort had been stalled along the way, reportedly by
Senator Roberts who--at the request of the Kansas Farm Bureau--had blocked the Service from publishing the environmental assessment in the Federal Register. Once the assessment had been published, it would take a couple months to fulfill that administrative process. But before that could happen, the County would take action that brought the matter right back into court.
The County Steps up the Attack The Logan County Commission did not waste much time in making another attack on the Complex. Starting after “business hours” as the courts recessed for Labor Day weekend, on Friday, September 7, 2007 a private exterminator hired by the County once again began an effort to wipe out the prairie dog population on the Complex–but this time it resorted to a much more deadly pesticide. The County applied for a permit from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks to use Phostoxin pellets in the prairie dog burrows. With the endorsement of the KState Extension Service’s “wildlife specialist,” the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks quickly granted the permit, and conveniently forgot to give notice to the Haverfields about what was going to soon happen on their property. Phostoxin is a highly toxic fumigant that is placed in burrows and then all possible escape routes from the burrows are plugged with sand bags or simply covered with dirt. He used plastic trash bags partially filled with sand, and they littered the landscape for months. Everything in the burrows dies quickly, including Cottontail Rabbits, Swift Foxes, Ornate Box Turtles and Burrowing Owls– which are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The exterminator worked feverishly through the weekend, covering as much ground and killing as many prairie dogs as possible before we could get a restraining order on Tuesday. When the Shawnee County Courthouse opened on Tuesday
Plastic bags partially filled with sand cover prairie dog burrows across hundreds of acres, littering the landscape with plastic above ground and serving as burial markers for all that lived in the burrows at the time of the application of Phostoxin--a poisonous gas.
morning, I obtained a temporary restraining order prohibiting further use of the fumigant without a hearing on the legality of the use. Officials with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks quickly disclaimed any interest in the fight and left the matter up to the County to defend. The temporary injuction granted by Judge Charles Andrews in Topeka precluded the use of Phostoxin on the property until further order of the Court. Logan County moved to vacate that order and sought injunctive relief itself to prevent “the plaintiffs from interfering with the County’s prairie dog extermination program.” The case proceeded to a hearing on November 20 before Judge Andrews. The parties spent a full day calling witnesses. We relied heavily on the testimony of Larry Haverfield and of Mike Lockhart, a former employee of USFWS who had worked for years in the reintroduction program and was a walking encyclopedia on Black-footed Ferrets. Mike told the judge of the interest USFWS had in the site and how it could be an ideal location for a relatively small-acreage reintroduction site. The County’s evidence continued to focus on the parade of horribles caused by the prairie dog “infestation.” The County’s witnesses included Carl
Uhrich, Commission Chairman, and Charles Lee, the K-State Extension Wildlife Specialist. They In an area still littered with plastic bags from the Phostoxin pushed the philosophy application, a few months later a County employee applies that prairie dog poisoning Rozol Prairie Dog Bait to every open burrow he can find should extend at least a within the buﬀer area surrounding and within the half mile from all Haverfield Ranch complex. boundaries and numbers further diminished even Kansas Farm Bureau’s attorney and the within the colonies that remained. That anti-prairie dog entourage he had would have left few prairie dog colonies assembled. Not one word of this conduct intact. They sited the willingness of The was mentioned by the County. The Nature Conservancy to adopt Lee’s hypocrisy of this was astounding: the aggressive approach within and County argued that it needed injunctive surrounding the Smoky Valley Ranch relief and yet days before the hearing their Preserve utilizing Rozol--and as later hired exterminator came onto the ranch disclosed, Phostoxin as well. complex and poisoned 500 acres of prairie Incredibly, after the hearing we learned that the County had sent an exterminator onto Larry’s property to clandestinely poison 500 acres of prairie dog colonies with Rozol in the week before the hearing, an incursion was only realized later because a pasture gate had been left open. The poisoning of the lands owned by the Haverfields, Barnhardts and Maxine Blank resumed on the day before the hearing when Larry and Bette left their ranch to travel 350 miles to the hearing. This first hearing was held on Larry’s 71st birthday. The exterminator actually sat behind our table in the courtroom, along with the
dog colonies This incursion was not discovered until after the Haverfields returned home. We wasted no time communicating the County’s conduct to the Court, which had taken the matter under advisement. While we awaited the Court’s decision, things were happening within the USFWS that we knew nothing about. The agency had studied the public comments to the reintroduction and concluded that a Section 10 reintroduction was warranted. On the evening of December 18, 2007, fourteen ferrets were released in the complex. It had been fifty years since these SPRING / SUMMER 2014
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mammals had been documented in Kansas. Because of the ongoing controversy, the agency sought to have a low-key reintroduction, notifying only the landowners—and then the County Commissioners, followed by the media. With the ferrets came assistance with control of prairie dogs on surrounding properties—at no cost for the landowners. It evolved into a contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) wildlife section, which hired a local man to do the job. To the surprise of very few, some of the surrounding landowners refused this assistance because it was being offered by the federal government – and they wanted extermination of prairie dogs and ferrets in the area, not just annual control. Some insisted that Rozol be used, rather than Zinc Phosphide, because they knew Rozol Prairie Dog Bait would not only kill prairie dogs, but Black-footed Ferrets. In fact Rozol kills a wide range of predators that feed on poisoned prairie dogs, including Badgers and Bald Eagles. On March 8, 2008, we received the order we hoped for. Judge Andrews’ decision on the County’s request for a temporary restraining was short and to the point: the County would be limited to treatment in the ninety-foot vegetative perimeter around the complex. The County’s prairie dog control agent was soon applying Rozol in the burrows within this boundary area and sending the Haverfields and Barnhardts the invoices.
County had somehow talked their liability insurance carrier into paying their new lawyer, Jim McVay from Great Bend, it seemed the Commissioners were losing a bit of their zeal to litigate. Then in January 2009, the County gave us notice that they were going to come onto the Complex and exterminate prairie dogs. It was as though the hearing in November had never happened. The Kansas office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was apparently prepared to acquiesce and a biologist was en route to try to trap ferrets so they wouldn’t be killed. We quickly sought an order from Judge Andrews precluding the County’s threat and it was granted. The County at that point concluded they needed a different judge and sought an order transferring the case back to Logan County, since the State was no longer a party to the case. None of the district judges in that area were interested in handling the matter so the state appointed Kansas Senior Judge, Jack Lively. I knew Judge Lively from his days
as a District Judge in Coffeyville and knew he was a no-nonsense, former military man that expected the parties to show up prepared and not to waste the Court’s time. I had absolutely no idea how he would be on federalism issues, but I felt comfortable that he would read the briefs carefully and consider our arguments–and that is really all a litigant can ask for. Our position was very straightforward. We felt that the County was attempting to make a collateral attack on the USFWS’s judgment to reintroduce Black-footed Ferrets by use of the century-old Kansas prairie dog eradication statute. I remembered back to my old Constitution Law class and the many cases dealing with federal preemption and the supremacy clause. The Congress of the United States had enacted the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with the express purpose of conserving endangered and threatened species. The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that the ESA was the most comprehensive legislation for the preservation of endangered species ever enacted by any
Nothing much happened for a year and we began to hope that the County had had enough of the courtroom. Even though the
Strength is Happiness. Strength is itself victory. In weakness and cowardice there Larry and Bette Haverfield, Gordon and Martha Barnhardt pictured on the ranch complex following a BFF release in 2008. Note the BFF! is no happiness. When you wage a struggle, you might win or you might lose. But regardless of the short-term outcome, the very fact of your continuing to struggle is proof of your victory as a human being. – Daisaku Ikeda 38 Prairie Wings SPRING / SUMMER 2014
nation. As such, any state law that threatened the extinction of a federally endangered species must give way to the ESA. The Courts had construed this protection to extend to habitat modification and degradation. The County’s position was that they were going to eliminate the prairie dogs and had no intention of killing ferrets, and that the USFWS should simply remove them. I believed with all my heart that we were right and so I decided to take the unusual step of moving for judgment as a matter of law by filing a motion for summary judgment. This procedure is used as a shield by defendants to avoid the expense of a trial in most cases that get filed, but is hardly ever used as a sword by plaintiffs. I did not know whether Judge Lively would be disposed to deny the County their trial on the facts. But I knew we could quickly bring this matter to the appellate courts if I could convince him that there were no factual issues remaining and that summary judgment was appropriate. On September 17, 2010 the parties argued the motion to Judge Lively. He listened intently as McVay and I argued with a great deal of passion as to our respective positions. Three days later, we got our decision. The Judge ruled that there were no facts to be decided at a trial and that he could decide the case as a matter of law. He held that there was an “irreconcilable conflict” between the ESA and the state eradication statute. He noted that the Black-footed Ferret is totally dependent upon prairie dogs for their survival and that the ESA prohibits any act that would result in significant habitat modification or degradation that significantly impairs its central behavior patterns, including breeding, feeding or sheltering. Our hope that this would bring an end to the litigation was short-lived. The
County had an automatic right to appeal to the Kansas Court of Appeals and it soon filed its notice of appeal. Jim McVay is a good and experienced lawyer and could see that a change of argument was needed. Suddenly the “only good prairie dog is a dead prairie dog” folks became the new kinder and gentler Logan County that wanted to work with all parties to simply do a little exterminating. It now claimed that it wanted to work “in harmony to address the concerns of the federal government in protecting the ESA program.” We, of course, were not going to let that argument slide by unopposed. We pointed out to the Court that the statute the defendant relied upon required the complete eradication of prairie dogs. We reminded the Court that up until its recent deathbed conversion, the County had argued that it was required to comply with the statute or face claims that it was ignoring its statutory duty. The Farm Bureau, of course, chimed in by filing an Amicus Curiae brief with an attack on the USFWS. The Court of Appeals heard oral argument in the Pawnee County Courthouse on May 15, 2012. I decided to go after the County hard on its change of tune and repeatedly hammered away on that theme. McVay tried to move away from the statute and now argued a general right of the County to abate a nuisance. The Court of Appeals was having none of it and repeatedly asked McVay about the conflict between the Kansas statute and the ESA. I felt good after the argument but I had also learned in 35 years of practice that questions at oral argument by the Court can be misleading in terms of where the Court is headed. On July 13, 2013, we got our answer. The Court upheld Judge Lively’s decision – noting that its deathbed conversion to only do a partial extermination was simply an attempt to do
Randy Rathbun is a trial attorney practicing in Wichita. Other than serving as U.S. Attorney for Kansas, he has been in private practice with Depew, Gillen, Rathbun & McInteer since 1978. He has been listed in Superlawyers since 1993 and is a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He handles cases for individuals, with an emphasis in environmental, employment and civil rights law.
Larry and Bette Haverfield pause for a requested photo outside the Pawnee County Courthouse after the Court of Appeals heard oral argument on May 15, 2012.
an “end run around the ESA.” It held that the ESA preempted K.S.A 80-1202 because the eradication could constitute an unlawful taking under the ESA and that the district court did not have jurisdiction to determine such an issue. The County had one last arrow in its quiver which it let loose on August 8, 2012 by seeking review of the Court of Appeals decision by the Kansas Supreme Court. The granting of review of Court of Appeals decision by the Supreme Court is somewhat rare, but it does happen. We learned in September 2013, that the Supreme Court, without comment, declined to hear the case. Thus, the decisions of Judge Andrews, Judge Lively and the Kansas Court of Appeals stand. There are many lessons one can take from this litigation, which stretched on for over six years. The most powerful lesson though is that an individual seeking protection of environmental interests can stand up to a local government and require it to follow the law–even if the federal government seems timid in protecting these rights. The Haverfields and Barhardts never backed down for a minute from the fight. One of the great joys of my career has been fighting for them. SPRING / SUMMER 2014
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From Arizona to Canada
Others Celebrate the Return In early October 2009 captive-raised Black-footed Ferrets (BFF) were returned to the prairies of Saskatchewan and released into the wild within the Grasslands National Park of Canada and an adjacent privately owned ranch. It was an occasion for celebration by the local community and surrounding area; First Nations of Canada leaders participated and blessed the reintroduction and officials from the province and Parks Canada came together for an inspirational demonstration of support. Regular classes were cancelled for area schools that participated with educational workshops and field trips to view the release, along with
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of a Native
photographers from National Geographic. Three hundred people gathered for the day’ festivities; followed by a dinner with an auction to raise funds to restore a historic grain elevator in the ranching and farming community of Val Marie. We’ve seen enthusiasm expressed in many areas. In 2006, the president of
the Seligman, Arizona Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter to the BFF Recovery Implementation Team Executive Committee highlighting why that rural community was enthusiastic about the reintroduction project—and the many benefits to Seligman and surrounding areas. Violet Searles wrote that the reintroduction of the BFF has helped instill a sense of pride in the community because this endangered species is being released in their own “backyard.” The project was in its tenth year at the time and the letter went on to underscore that, “the Seligman Chamber of Commerce finds the Blackfooted Ferret project to be a positive
addition to both the community and local commerce. We are proud to continue our relationship and to benefit from the Black-footed Ferret reintroduction program in Seligman.” She added that the BFF team is now sought after by local businesses and organizations to give presentations or represent the project during community events. At the Chamber’s request, biologists involved with the project have participated with interactive educational wildlife booths at Seligman Days events. After dealing with the opposition created in Kansas (yes, created by a few individuals, the chairman of the Logan County Commission, and the Farm Bureau), the events in Canada were particularly reassuring. It was reassuring to be reminded that the vast majority of people support wildlife conservation and recovery of endangered species. Surveys have shown that this is also true in Kansas! A well-respected national polling firm, Responsive Management, Inc., published findings of two extensive survey reports in 1991 and 2011 on “Kansas residents’
opinions on threatened and endangered wildlife and actions to protect wildlife.” The survey revealed that:
“An overwhelming majority of Kansas residents (91%) agree that the Department [the state’s wildlife agency] should continue to identify and protect habitat critical to the existence of threatened and endangered wildlife.” We’ve never heard a discouraging word from folks who have businesses in Oakley. Community leaders in Seligman, Val Marie, and Wall, S.D. are all supportive of nature conservation and appreciation and there isn’t any reason to believe it is different in Logan County. They may, in fact, just be part of the “silent majority.” They appreciate the benefits, and many support the BFF recovery project, but prefer to not be pulled into any
contentious issues created by others. As the welcoming manager of the Kansas Kountry Inn in Oakley has often expressed, local businesses in this western Kansas town also appreciate the scores of college students and others who come out to participate in the spring and fall spotlight ferret surveys, and related field activities. The excitement of seeing and documenting BFFs keeps participants up all night, searching the landscape with spotlights for a glimpse of the the bright teal-colored eye reflection of the ferrets. Swift Foxes, Coyotes, Bobcats, Jackrabbits and other nocturnal species are also seen on the Haverfield Ranch Complex. Volunteers from as far away as Massachusetts drive out to contribute a few nights of their time, although most come from throughout Kansas, including Emporia State University, KSU, FHSU, zoos within Kansas, the Prairie Park Nature Center in Lawrence and the Milford Nature Center. As the sun rises over the shortgrass prairies, everyone is ready to return to the comforts of a motel room in Oakley or the Logan House in the tiny village of Russell Springs for a “good day’s rest!”
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Ron Klataske photos
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ecember 2, 2013 was a bleak day for State of Kansas conservation leadership. Unfortunately, it was a reflection of an anti-conservation political philosophy that has taken over the body of state agencies like Kudzu* on abandoned farmsteads in some areas of the rural South. On this day, the state director of USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) accepted input from members of the USDA State Technical Committee and state agencies on whether a small amount of Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) funds should be available in Kansas to assist landowners with recovery of Black-footed Ferrets. States are being provided the opportunity to decide if they want to allocate EQIP dollars to a small targeted group of landowners for the reintroduction of the Black-footed Ferret. This is in response to the Black-footed Ferret Programmatic Safe Harbor Agreement released October 23, 2013 by NRCS, Fish and Wildlife Service, APHIS, and the Western Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was created to assist in cooperative conservation efforts among all parties in conjunction with willing landowners. The NRCS even created the Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) program, along with special incentives, in order to support the efforts of the MOU. Unfortunately on December 4 the Kansas State Conservationist elected not to participate, siting the antiquated 1903 Photo at top: A discomforting message on a t-shirt printed in “Aggieville,” a shopping area near the KSU campus.
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prairie dog eradication statutes. However, Kansas courts have ruled that the Endangered Species Act over-rides these Kansas statutes. EQIP funds are federal funds, and last year $26 million was extended to Kansas for a wide range of programs and practices. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been expended to build individual treatment facilities for numerous established and new cattle and hog feedlot and confinement facilities. Just last year, at the recommendation of the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) and with the advocacy of the Kansas Farm Bureau, a new eligible practice was approved to finance the building of concrete structures to accommodate huge truckloads of chicken manure coming from corporate chicken operations in Arkansas. This is an agricultural production operation that should logically be paid for by the entities that benefit financially. With EQIP funding, taxpayers will finance facilities so that agricultural enterprises involved can stay in compliance with water quality standards and hopefully this “fertilizer” will only be applied to fields when conditions are suitable. AOK concurred because runoff from exposed mature piles would otherwise run into southeastern Kansas streams. That has been the case. However, it has become clear that entities that pitch for importing poultry manure for production agriculture object to conservation of wildlife – even endangered
species. Presumably at the instruction of Dale Rodman, former Secretary of the KDA, a statement was filed stating that:
“This note is to reconfirm our discussion that federal program dollars will NOT be used on any black footed ferret reintroduction efforts in Kansas. The DOC and the KDA does NOT support any further black footed ferret reintroduction efforts in Kansas. Current reintroduction efforts have created tremendous hardships and conflict in northwest Kansas. We recommend that interested parties focus on the existing effort to remedy concerns and work to heal relationships and rebuild – Greg Foley trust. DOC stands for the Division of Conservation within KDA. Prior to recent reorganization, it was the State Conservation Commission, an agency that was traditionally nonpolitical and had a commendable history of water and soil conservation work. Tragically, DOC is now under the political, administrative and ideological CONTROL of the KDA secretary. Unfortunately, conservation of nongame, imperiled or endangered species is no longer a priority even for the Kansas
*KUDZU kills or damages other plants by smothering them under a blanket of leaves, encompassing tree trunks, breaking branches, or even uprooting entire trees. Kudzu’s ability to grow quickly has earned it the nickname, “The vine that ate the South.”
Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. In fact, it has become increasingly clear that top KDWPT leadership regard species other than “game” as a distraction. It appears far too frequently at KDWPT Commission meetings and in other forums that “if they (other wildlife) can’t be hunted or trapped, what good are they?” Only game species and furbearers generate license sales. One doesn’t have to read between the lines of the statement presented by KDWPT to NRCS to realize this approach prevails, even when the funds involved are federal funds:
On behalf of Secretary Robin Jennison, we vote no, KDWPT provides technical assistance to KS NRCS existing target general wildlife EQIP programs. Currently KDWPT does not plan on having its own BFF recovery plan in KS. KDWPT would support new KS EQIP funding for general wildlife EQIP in KS for a BFF recovery plan, but would not support using existing KS general wildlife EQIP money for a BFF recovery plan. Thank you for allowing comments. – Joe Kramer
Previously, the highlight of KDWPT’s attention to the array of species worthy of acknowledgement came in 2005 when at least 110 participants from virtually all entities interested in wildlife came together to develop comprehensive wildlife conservation strategies. The results were published as the 170-page A FUTURE FOR KANSAS WILDLIFE, Kansas’ Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plan. Federal funding for planning was provided by Congress. These proactive plans were designed to prescribe actions to conserve wildlife and vital habitat before species became imperiled and more costly to protect. The plan named 1,488 species, including 316 “species of greatest conservation need” and 59 threatened or endangered species. The plan qualifies KDWPT to receive federally funded State & Tribal Wildlife Grants for the purpose of implementing the plan to help keep species from becoming more rare or endangered. However, there is apparently little initiative beyond having a plan within the Wildlife Section of KDWP. A reflection of that occurred when the Wildlife Diversity Coordinator was pushed out of the section and into the Ecological Services Section in 2004. Following retirement of the coordinator, the position has now been vacant since September 2011.
The plan was to be “thoroughly” reviewed and revised in five to seven-year intervals. In reality it has been largely abandoned – almost as if buried in the sand like ancient tablets. Nothing illustrates the disregard for comprehensive plans more than the “burial” of the BLACK-TAILED PRAIRIE DOG CONSERVATION & MANAGEMENT PLAN prepared by a broad-based working group and published in 2002. Working through the Extension Wildlife Specialist, the agency has promoted the use of Rozol, including immediately around the Black-footed Ferret reintroduction sites. The Extension Specialist recommended and the agency approved the use of Photoxin (which kills everything in the burrows) at the request of the Logan County Commission on the ranches with prairie dogs prior to the release of ferrets as a way of preemptively eliminating prairie dogs. And now, they are forcing a landowner in Meade County to agree to kill half of the young prairie dogs on his land each year as a condition of retaining any prairie dogs on his 800-acre ranch. The agency has neglected prairie dog management on KDWPT lands to the point of near total elimination on these public lands. Ignoring the encroachment of invasive cedars and other trees on the small colony at Lovewell State Park is an
With ongoing abandonment of any substantial commitment to conservation of nongame species, KDWPT is becoming an entity overwhelmingly focused on COMMODITIES, somewhat similar to the Chicago Board of Trade’s attention to corn, beans and pork bellies. For KDWPT the commodities of interest are those “game” species that can be harvested and marketed with a hunting, trapping or fishing fee. That leaves out the vast majority of the species native to the state, which were included in the mission statement for the agency, which is:
“To conserve and enhance Kansas’ natural heritage, its wildlife and its habitats to ensure future generations the benefits of the state’s diverse, living resources.”
A photo illustration designed to illustrate recent elimination of safeguards that were implemented in 2005 for protection of this endangered species.
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illustration of disinterest in this wildlife resource--and associated species, including Burrowing Owls. The absence of any proactive management has further jeopardized populations of other species, including some that were recognized in the diversity plan as species of greatest conservation need. Ferruginous Hawks were at the top of the list in western Kansas where they are now approaching extirpation as a breeding species. Yet, permits are issued so that falconers can come into the state, live trap and remove Ferruginous Hawks. The overwhelming philosophy of “leadership” in the Wildlife Section is to maximize hunting and trapping opportunities. That is fine in those instances when imperiled species are not jeopardized, when hunting or trapping are ecologically ethical, and when there is a sufficient harvestable surplus. In 2012, with an avid Sandhill Crane hunter as chairman of the KDWPT Commission, the department eliminated safeguards put in place since 2005 to reduce the prospect of additional Whooping Cranes being mistaken and killed in low light conditions. They eliminated the slightly restrictive shooting hours from a half hour AFTER sunrise to 2 p.m. and replaced it with shooting from sunrise to sunset. This change increases the risk of mistaken identity; in low light conditions all the cranes appear as silhouettes. This resulted in the shooting of three Whooping Cranes in November 2004. The extended shooting in the late afternoon--at the few roosting sites that Sandhill Cranes can utilize in the state-also maximizes disturbance of and stress on these long-distance migrants which nest in northern Canada, Alaska and Siberia. We do not consider sunrise to sunset shooting at roost sites to be ecologically ethical. The Lesser Prairie-chicken (LEPC) is
a candidate for listing as a federally threatened species. Its occupied range has been shrinking and the population has been dropping in recent years. Yet, in 2012, KDWP increased the hunting season length by a month and the daily bag limit from 1 to 2 in a large portion of the LEPC range. A month-long early season, when young broods hold better for dogs or flush closer, was added. This created a season of 107 days—longer than any other upland gamebird season. In a time of drought the legal kill may be cumulative to other mortality factors, thus reducing the breeding population and the prospect of this added “take” being sustainable. The season expansion, especially in a time of drought and stress on the birds, suggests an element of disregard for the threatened and endangered species listing process. The five state region-wide population estimate dropped from 79,090 in 2003 to 34,440 in 2012, followed by a dramatic decline in one year to 17,615 in 2013. An added factor that has undermined prospects for Prairie-chicken reproduction and survival in western Kansas was the “release” of virtually all of the state’s 2.3 million acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grasslands for emergency haying and grazing in recent years. Elected officials called for it, and USDA made these grasslands available with only 10 percent reduction in annual rental payments to landowners. There appears to be no recognition that extended droughts and other weather extremes are devastating for wildlife, and CRP habitat is often critical--and the only nesting, brood and winter cover available. CRP is a conservation program, in part for wildlife, funded by all taxpayers. Audubon of Kansas was apparently the only organization that wrote to Farm Service Agency officials in the state asking that the habitat be retained in the LEPC range. KDWPT was not inclined
A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise. – Aldo Leopold 44 Prairie Wings SPRING / SUMMER 2014
to speak forcefully to make a case for wildlife. At the same time the agencies and politicians have been insisting that the Lesser Prairie-chicken should not be listed as threatened because it is in good hands. Confidence in that suggestion was eroded recently when Secretary of State Kris Kobach sponsored a bill (SB 276) in the Kansas Legislature that declares “any federal law, treaty, regulation or executive action that specifically regulates [Prairiechickens and their habitats] null, void and unenforceable within the state.” Furthermore, the bill (passed immediately by the Senate Natural Resources Committee) would make it “unlawful” [as a felony] for any state, local or federal employee to provide services or enforce any such federal law….” The “natural resource” lobbyist with the Kansas Farm Bureau was quoted as telling members of the committee, "If we can pass this bill, many of you will go home heroes." If enacted, this anti-federal measure would totally undermine KDWPT’s ability to participate in the five-state region-wide conservation plan. The plan is designed to serve as an alternative to listing, or as a way to assist recovery of the population so it can be removed from threatened status later. Needless to say, aside from participation in development of the proactive region wide conservation plan, most of the other actions do not instill much confidence that the State of Kansas is going to provide the leadership needed to sustain and recover this imperiled species. Listing as a threatened species may be necessary to require compliance among USDA agencies. The NRCS State Conservationist for Kansas recently removed consideration of wildlife from agency planning requirements for production-oriented rangeland health and livestock grazing plans funded with federal EQIP funds. Those practices represent more than half of the annual EQIP costshare expenditures in the state. Now, district conservationists and applicants won’t have to consider the wildlife consequences of broadcast herbicide spraying of native rangelands or water and fencing facilities (paid for with taxpayers’ funds) designed to create monocultures. Some of these practices are a coup de grâce
this native species has taken decades and the species has not returned or established sustainable breeding populations throughout much of the state. Likewise, although Swift Fox populations have been in jeopardy in the recent past and are still a “species in greatest need of conservation,” there is no limit on the number of Swift Foxes that any and all trappers can take in Kansas. Swift Foxes are considered threatened throughout much of their former range. Neither species is legally trapped in Nebraska, which is taking a more conservative approach.
Two male Lesser Prairie-chickens contesting rank and territory on a courtship lek. Photo ©Bob Gress, BirdsinFocus.com
for habitat needed by Prairie-chickens and many other grassland and shrub-nesting species. Current populations and prospects for more abundant game species – including Pheasants, Northern Bobwhites, Greater Prairie-chickens and deer – are diminished by the political cloud that hangs over KDWPT. Biologists cannot effectively counter the forces that advocate more intensive utilization of CRP grasslands at the expense of wildlife. Pheasant populations are now at an all time low and that diminishes the agency’s revenues and the tourism economy broadly. Hunting, fishing and trapping fees provide most of the funding for the agency. It is unfortunate that there isn’t general revenue support. However, some within the Wildlife Section with an ideology that is
limited to hunting, fishing and trapping prefer this restricted focus for the agency. Residents with other interests do not have much reason to attend KDWPT Commission meetings. The nonconsumptive philosophy doesn’t have much “standing” in this arena, and it is seldom expressed. The Kansas Nongame Wildlife Advisory Council also seems to have been sidelined in the last year. We hope it is just temporary. Inquiries from the chairman to KDWPT to schedule meetings have gone without any response. Regardless of their population status, species subject to hunting or trapping are pretty much off limits for council discussion. Many wildlife enthusiasts are dismayed when they learn that River Otters can now be trapped statewide, even though return of
Where there is no financial reward for KDWPT, there is minimal interest. Staff members who were educated or are inclined to approach wildlife management holistically cannot do as much as they would like. Without legislative and gubernatorial support, and without a capacity for initiative petitions, Kansans have not been able to secure a source of funding for broad-based conservation programs, as have residents in Missouri and a number of other states. An absence of general revenue used to mean less political interference, but that benefit has vanished. Recent across-the-board cuts in funding have further curtailed work on everything from nature centers and fish hatcheries to habitat improvements on public lands. Seventy-five seasonal employees were terminated a week before Christmas, and given four days notice. In spite of our wildlife agency’s shortcomings, much commendable work is accomplished by most staff individually and collectively. Everyone with an interest in wildlife needs to stay informed and engaged. We need to be as supportive as possible when it is merited, and express disappointment when needed. It is also imperative that citizens defend the agency’s capacity to conserve the state’s wildlife heritage against constant erosion by lobbyists and politicians who do not share a commitment to conservation. In response to a vote in committee against SB 276, State Senator Marci Francisco wrote, “I want to send…a very different message and one that I believe to be true: Kansans want to take appropriate action to maintain our valuable wildlife habitat.” We second that thought.
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Library of Congress photos
The new Worst Hard Times for Black-footed Ferrets in Kansas
lthough spared towering dust storms, western Kansas and adjoining areas have suffered a devastating drought during the past several years. The human toll was not as severe as the 1930s-epic drought described in Timothy Egan’s book The Worst Hard Time. But it has been rough on native ranges, and agriculture in general, and it has had an untold adverse impact on wildlife. The dust storms of the 1930s resulted from an accumulation of flawed governmental policies – incentives to plow native grasslands. Many other government programs (including various Farm Bill subsidies and Ethanol mandates) have continued to fuel the destruction of additional tens of millions of acres of grasslands by bringing them into cultivation in recent decades. By the same token, a variety of flawed policies at the federal, state and county levels have resulted in destruction of Blackfooted Ferret (BFF) habitat through extensive poisoning of Black-tailed Prairie Dog colonies on both public and private land, even though their numbers have already diminished by at least 98 percent from historic records. Adding insult to injury, they have gone further to cripple or destroy many of the opportunities to reintroduce Black-footed Ferrets in the wild by erecting statutory roadblocks and litigation campaigns against landowners who have allowed prairie dogs and associated wildlife to live on their land. In Kansas, obstacles to recovery of even a relatively small reintroduced population
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have been under constant legal attack by the Logan County Commission. Their political attack has employed the Kansas Farm Bureau and politicians at the state level who have tried to further undermine the recovery effort of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or Service) and cooperating landowners. With the sponsorship of two western Kansas state senators – Senator Larry Powell and Senator Ralph Ostmeyer – Senate Resolution 1711 was pushed through one chamber during the 2013 legislative session. The resolution opposed the Service’s establishment of a national Black-footed Ferret Programmatic Safe Harbor Agreement designed to make it easier for the Service and landowners with potential habitat, and their neighbors, to work together to implement recovery programs. KDWPT officials did not file a position on the resolution, but Senator Ostmeyer said he gave the KDWPT secretary a road tour of the area to express concerns with the reintroduction project. It would be fair to ask, “What solutions have opponents offered for conservation of threatened or endangered species?” It seems at times that they are more interested in eradication than conservation. A news article in the Colby Free Press on May 6, 2013 quoted a County Commissioner as saying in a meeting that the action he wanted to take was, “To get rid of the prairie dogs and the ferrets and the prairie chickens.”
That mindset separates conservationists from extinctionists. To financially exploit and promote the extinctionist perspective, opponents brought in Fred Kelly Grant from Idaho. He rides a circuit creating distrust of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies, and specifically in Kansas the work of the Service to conserve threatened and endangered species. His first target several years ago was the BFF reintroduction project, but more recently he has added potential listing of Lesser Prairie-chickens as a more widespread cause in Kansas. A “consulting firm” was established for this purpose with James Carlson of Garden City and Shelia Ellis from Scott County to visit all county commissions in the region to declare that THE SKY WILL FALL if the Lesser Prairie-chicken is listed, and request that all counties provide funding to fight the USFWS. Spokesperson Shelia Ellis reportedly told the Thomas County Commission that, “We’ve put a big hurt on them” with opposition to the BFF reintroduction project. The news article indicated that the firm would “bill all counties $785 a month…” if they would join the LEPC campaign. The most vehement opposition to the BFF project from the Logan County Commission and the Kansas Farm Bureau has been directed to Larry Haverfield, Gordon Barnhardt and Maxine Blank for their devotion to
“To get rid of the prairie dogs and the ferrets and the prairie chickens.”
maintaining prairie dogs and associated wildlife on their land without allowing extensive poisoning. Nevertheless, the density of the prairie dog population has dropped to about a half of what it was prior to the drought. In addition to the direct impact of the severe drought on reproductive success and survival of prairie dogs, it has also contributed to a decline in the dependent ferret population. In the absence of poisoning with Rozol on the property, their land has a relatively abundant diversity of predators including Swift Foxes, Badgers, Coyotes, Bobcats, Ferruginous Hawks and Golden Eagles. Thus, this combination of predators provides an element of natural prairie dog control – without eradication. Prairie dog complexes are a magnet for other wildlife. As former AOK employee Mike Hudson said a few years ago while working and camping on the ranch, “It is like being in a national wildlife refuge.” Conversely, a landscape without wildlife is an ecological wasteland. Because of the disproportional opposition, including the political influence of State Senator Ralph Ostmeyer, KDWPT Secretary Robin Jennison has pulled the agency’s already limited and nervous support. Early last year he proposed to the US Fish and Wildlife Service that they should remove the Black-footed Ferrets from the Haverfield/Barnhardt/Blank complex (Haverfield Ranch Complex) and move them to The Nature Conservancy’s 16,800-acre Smoky Valley Ranch. However, essentially all of the stakeholders involved in the BFF recovery effort dismiss the bizarre idea of relocating them for political purposes. Such a move would simply jeopardize the survival of any ferrets transferred. Most of the property is devoted to other management priorities established as part of the preserve plan before ferret reintroduction became a possibility. The Conservancy has also had an aggressive prairie dog control program within and surrounding the preserve for several years, in part to win added acceptance with the Logan County Commissioners and nearby landowners. Following a prairie dog density study during the summer of 2013 it became obvious that the population on the Smoky Valley Ranch had dropped from an
occupied area of 2,754 acres with a density of 4.5 prairie dogs per acre in 2009 to an occupied area of 1,639 acres with a density of 1.2 prairie dogs in 2013. This prairie dog population is not sufficient to sustain a population of reintroduced Black-footed Ferrets from earlier releases of captiveraised BFFs – and it could not support additional ferrets if they were transferred from the Haverfield Ranch recovery site. The population of prairie dogs on the Haverfield Ranch in 2009 was estimated to occupy an area of 7,669 acres with a density of 4.5 prairie dogs per acre. The population density had declined to 2.2 prairie dogs per acre in 2013 due to natural causes, but scattered colonies still occupied 7,801 acres within the 10,000-acre ranch complex. From the beginning it has been, and continues to be, the best hope for reestablishment of a wild BFF population in Kansas. It doesn’t seem biologically logical to take most of the surviving ferrets in western Kansas and transfer them to a site with only 10 percent of the total prairie dog population within the two sites. In light of the situation on the ground, that request was fortunately dropped. In recent weeks a new proposal has been described as a necessary condition to obtain KDWPT cooperation with the BFF recovery program. The proposal to the Service and the landowners is for the landowners to
allow the reduction of the acreage of occupied prairie dog colonies from 7,801 to 5,700 acres of occupied area, and for additional “target reductions” with lethal control, trapping and relocation. It states further that, “Prairie dogs from areas on the [Haverfield Ranch] targeted for control could be trapped and relocated to areas on the TNC Smoky Valley Ranch.” According to the memorandum, “This action would serve a dual purpose of achieving reductions in prairie dog numbers on the [Haverfield Ranch] complex while encouraging more rapid growth of depleted prairie dog populations at [the TNC Smoky Valley Ranch].” Although the Logan County Commissioners and allied politicians have railed that prairie dogs are emigrating from the properties and boundary controls have not been successful, the data maintained by the field staff of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Wildlife Services division (APHIS-WS) demonstrate the opposite. As an illustration of this fact, 105,740 prairie dog burrows were treated with toxicants on neighboring properties in the 2009-2010 season. The number of active burrows dramatically declined each year and by 2012-2013 the reduced number treated totaled 40,211. Likewise, the number of prairie dogs killed with firearms dropped from 8033 in 2011 to 5073 in 2013. Following an Audubon of
Following release, a captive-raised Black-footed Ferret surveys its new home from atop a prairie dog mound on property owned by Maxine Blank.. SPRING / SUMMER 2014
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Chart illustrates toxicants applied to all properties except relocation sites. Courtesy APHIS-WS.
Kansas request, the agency began using lead free bullets in 2012 to reduce lead poising of raptors and other scavengers. As a service to neighboring landowners, and at no cost to them, prairie dogs have been annually controlled by APHIS-WS staff out to a distance of nearly four miles in every direction from the BFF reintroduction sites. Conservation funding has been used to pay for the service. Considering that prairie dog colonies were scattered throughout the area prior to 2007, there is a case to be made for the fact that the BFF reintroduction has not been detrimental to the economic interests of landowners in the vicinity. In fact, the control measures have been favorable for most. Larry Haverfield also built an electric fence along 22 miles of boundary to preclude grazing and allow a vegetative barrier to grow to reduce dispersal. In addition, Audubon of Kansas built ten miles of prairie dog barrier fence along sections of the boundary. They are effective at reducing emigration of prairie dogs in those more challenging odds. However, it seems that none of the accommodations made by the wildlife agencies and their partners have provided
any satisfaction to the Logan County Commissioners – one of whom said in court that his objective was to eliminate all the prairie dogs. Along with other avid opponents, they have insisted that Rozol be used to control prairie dogs. They know that it kills predators, including ferrets, and that may be one of their motives. In 2010, AOK and Defenders of Wildlife received assurance from the then-regional director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service that use of Rozol would be discontinued for boundary control. Unfortunately, a new representative of USFWS and his Kansas colleague yielded to the insistence of the commissioners to allow APHIS to use Rozol if requested starting in the fall of 2012. Burrows just across the pasture fences from the BFF recover sites are now treated with Rozol paid for with conservation funds. Ferrets travel, sometimes miles in a night, and if they eat poisoned prairie dogs they are likely to perish as well. It is a new “worst hard times” for these rare native mammals. A total of 22 Black-footed Ferrets were observed during the fall 2013 night spotlight survey. Seventeen of the 22 ferrets were observed on the Haverfield/Barnhardt/Blank Ranch
complex. Five were seen on the Smoky Valley Ranch. Three years earlier 58 BFFs were tallied in the fall survey, 44 on the Haverfield Ranch and 14 on the TNC property. The decision to use Rozol wasn’t very encouraging for the real conservation heroes – the landowners hosting the reintroduction who have spent tens of thousands of dollars making it possible. They weren’t even told. We are now hoping that USFWS staff do not continue to buy into the notion – designed by KDWPT’s secretary to give priority deference to opponents – that more prairie dogs need to be killed on the Haverfield Ranch, specifically to reduce the occupied acreage to 5,700 acres and further diminish the density. Even if BFFs were not dependent on this prairie dog colony complex, the goal of the Kansas Black-tailed Prairie Dog Conservation and Management Plan has been to maintain biologically viable populations of Black-tailed Prairie Dogs at selected sites across the historical range in Kansas. One of five conservation strategies included in the plan is to “Maintain one complex greater than 5000 acres.” The prairie dog complex on the Haverfield Ranch Complex is the only complex of that size remaining in Kansas. This complex has also proven to be the most promising BFF recovery project in the state and central Great Plains. Five litters of pups where born there in 2012. It is appropriate for the KDWPT Secretary and other agency administrators to consider the views of wide array of elected officials and politicians, and hopefully other stakeholder as well. However, it is not proper for the agency’s mission of wildlife conservation to be eclipsed by the political pressure of the most radical fraction. One wonders if potential chapters on BFF, prairie dogs and prairie-chickens are playing out now for a sequence to Todd Wilkinson’s book, SCIENCE UNDER SIEGE, The Politicians’ War on Nature and Truth. Although wildlife agency staff may feel
Ultimately, man "needs another kind of farming by which he can satisfy his needs without making a wasteland." – Donald Worster, author of Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s 48 Prairie Wings SPRING / SUMMER 2014
like they are between a rock and a hard place, we expect them to be rock solid when it comes to standing for sound biological science and their respective agency’s mission. – Ron Klataske
When the sun came shining, and I was strolling, And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling, Ron Klataske photo
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting: This land was made for you and me. –Woody Guthrie. 1944 lyrics
Black-tailed Prairie Dog pups. Prairie dog colonies are key to establishment of Blackfooted Ferret populations in the wild.
Highway Roadside Vegetation Increasingly Important —But Some Roadsides Harbor an Invasive Threat
Roadsides are certainly “humble places,” and we believe they can readily be managed to offer natural beauty for everyone’s enjoyment. At least everyone except those who choose to “see nothing” or regard natural vegetation that is not mowed as “unkept.” Fortunately, major strides for ecologically and economically commendable policies have been made in recent years: * Governor Sam Brownback met with conservation leaders on this subject again this past summer. He expressed his continued support for reduced mowing policies to the conservation community, and administrative staff in KDOT is aware of his perspective. * Administrative staff in KDOT headquarters in Topeka generally support the limited mowing policies included in the Aesthetics Task Force report of 2008 (and similar policies already on the books at that time). * It was widely Monarch Butterflies are in danger recognized within KDOT that because of habitat loss, deforestation in Mexico and elimination of the $6 million spent annually milkweed—their main food source-on mowing in previous years in the U.S. County roadsides are could be substantially needlessly sprayed with herbicides, reduced; in our opinion surely and until recently KDOT roadsides to a third of that while were repeatedly mowed. This retaining all necessary impressive stand of milkweeds was mowing. along K177 in the Flint Hills. SPRING / SUMMER 2014
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As outlined in some detail in the article entitled “The Good, the Bad & Extraordinarily Beautiful” on roadside management in the Winter 2012/Spring 2013 edition of PRAIRIE WINGS, properly managed roadside vegetation that is protected from unnecessary mowing can reduce snow drifting across roadways, serve as filter strips to remove sediment and pollutants to improve water quality, conceal and keep litter from washing into nearby streams, and add greatly to the aesthetic appeal of our landscape.
“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.” —Camille Pissarro, (1830-1903) a Danish-French impressionist painter born on the island of St. Thomas
Unfortunately, much of the 160,000 acres of grasslands included in 20,000+ miles of rights-of-way administered by KDOT and KTA appears to fall into the realm of the “Tragedy of the Commons,” where various people take what they want because it belongs to “nobody” specifically and has no prominent value-added purpose. A lot of roadside vegetation is mowed with the principle purpose of providing jobs to do repeatedly. In addition, KDOT’s policy of giving away this resource to others to mow for hay—without any financial fee or any consideration to the values of public interest—further diminishes the public interest values of the vegetation. The most tragic aspect of errors of highway roadside management is the fact that these areas are collectively the portal for the most destructive invasive threat to native rangelands and prairies in Kansas. Caucasian bluestem was apparently introduced with contaminated seed or mulch, and is being spread by mowing activities. It is being ignored as it takes over roadsides and adjacent pastures like a cancer, killing all other vegetation. Hay harvesting of roadsides threatens to spread it far beyond this source. If this continues, the potential damage to Kansas grasslands will be in the tens of millions of dollars required for control— and once widespread, control will be almost impossible.
Ron Klataske photos
* The State of Kansas has budget challenges, putting pressure on many state programs, from K-12 education to solving major ecological problems associated with KDOT lands (described below) which most people likely regard as more important than unnecessary mowing. However, many in charge and those doing the mowing in 212 different KDOT fiefdoms have little incentive to change their approach and reduce their budget. One wonders what would occur if every subdivision within other state and federal agencies all marched to their own drummer as seems to be the case with KDOT. For some maintenance staff, spending days or weeks within the cab of a climate-controlled New Holland tractor is their most pleasant endeavor. It beats road repairs any day! Some KDOT maintenance staff are as reluctant to park their mowers—when there is vegetation remaining along the state’s highways that could be mowed— as the Clantons were to turn their guns over to Wyatt Earp in Tombstone in 1881. Although roadsides in some areas are managed according to policies and with a sense of pride in the state’s prairie heritage, this is not true for many areas. In some KDOT subdivisions, it is as if any grass left unmowed is a threat to what should be a sterile landscape. Virtually every blade of grass along KDOT and KTA roads in Sedgwick County, for example, has been mowed off in recent years. There is no place for a Meadowlark—the state bird—to nest, or for a covey of Bobwhite Quail to find cover adjacent to cropped fields. As almost every square inch of remnant grasslands and shrubs in many rural landscapes are plowed or bulldozed, intensively grazed or mowed, roadsides are increasingly important because they often provide the only remaining “cover” for a number of nesting, wintering or migrating bird species. The same loss of habitat is true for many beneficial pollinating insects. The decline of Monarch Butterflies is alarming. The least we can do is to allow milkweeds— vital for Monarch reproduction—and other wildflowers to thrive along roadsides.
The Caucasian Bluestem along this road is taking over native range in the Flint Hills.
Article by Dick Seaton
The Praying Mantis is a master at camouflage, and this one is well hidden in the branches of a dogwood. â€“ Ron Klataske photo
or many of us, the world of insects is easy to ignore. But if you are a bird, insects may be the mainstay of your diet. Ground dwelling birds of the prairie, such as the Upland Sandpiper and a whole variety of native sparrows, survive mainly on grasshopper nymphs during the warm season. Permanent residents, such as Bobwhite Quail and Prairie-chickens do the same. Most songbirds, whether resident in summer or just passing through, feed on the insect world. Worldwide, insects constitute 75% of all animal species and 90% of the total animals on Earth, excluding those that are microscopic. Unbelievably, there is an average of 400 million insects per acre in the Earthâ€™s temperate zones.
Kansas is estimated to have somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 species of insects, many of them not yet named or described. Consequently, it is one of the most interesting of all states in which to study and collect insects. They are very susceptible to changes in local weather conditions. Like plants, different insects thrive in different types of weather. Their survival strategy is to reproduce by the millions, so that at least a few will live to maturity. The Buck Moth, for example, hatches 95% of its young, but in most years only about 10% will pupate to become adults. Some insects migrate, the most prominent example being the Monarch Butterfly. A strong south wind may on occasion bring butterflies from Texas that
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are normally not present in Kansas. Likewise, strong winds ahead of a storm front may bring a migration of new insects in just a day or two. Like birds, they know the storm is coming. Fragmentation, alteration or elimination of habitat also affects insects, just as it does birds and wildflowers. The Regal Fritillary butterfly lays its eggs in the fall and its offspring depend on violets for food. The population of violets is shrinking in the prairie, and consequently the Regal Fritillary is becoming threatened. If you take a walk on the prairie in summer, you will kick up grasshoppers. But did you realize that there are an estimated 50 species in the prairies and other habitats within Konza Prairie, with a new one discovered by researchers nearly every year in recent years. They feed reptiles, amphibians, fish and mammals as well as birds, and the large ones are caviar for Coyotes. In feeding themselves, grasshoppers take as much biomass from Konza as the bison herd. They can consume their body weight in plant material in a single day, making nutrients for new plant growth, through fecal material and clipped vegetation. Grasshoppers divide into three main groups: (1) the slant-faced, who lack any “chin,” (2) the band-winged, who show colorful wings in flight, and (3) the spurthroated, who carry a spur in front of and between their front legs.
Many insects camouflage themselves by resting on plants that are so similar in coloration and pattern as to make them almost invisible to predators. Many insects camouflage themselves by resting on plants that are so similar in coloration and pattern as to make them almost invisible to predators. They also have other defensive techniques. For
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example, the caterpillar of the Eupithecia moth feeds on a deadly poisonous plant, the Death Camas, and incorporates the poison into its own body, making it completely unpalatable to birds and other predators. What if you want to identify an insect you are unsure about? Maybe it has made its way into your house, or onto your garden plants. Kansas State University employs an insect diagnostician whose job it is to help you identify your mystery bug. Although most requests come to her with only a photo, making identification from a sample is much more reliable, providing the sample is not too damaged. All insects tend to have a look-a-like who can fool all but the experts. For example, the closely followed Khapra Beetle, an invasive and destructive insect in stored grain, from Asia, has a look-alike which is native to Kansas. This year’s unusual weather pattern has certainly affected the insect population. K-State’s diagnostician reports that the previous year’s drought, plus cold and snow in the spring and overcast and rainy weather in the summer, impacted her requests. For example, aphids, with a short life cycle appeared in tremendous numbers in June. Chiggers were also very heavy this summer because of the cloudy days and moist weather. July’s rains brought many waterborne insects, including some that are seen here infrequently. Kansas State University is also home to the Insect Zoo, which was established in 2002. It is open Tuesday thru Saturday from noon until 6:00 p.m. and by appointment. Guided tours and group visits are available by prearrangement. The phone number is (785) 532-5891. It is located in the old dairy barn on the campus at 1500 Denison Avenue in Manhattan. We often view insects as pests. If someone is annoying us, we say, “Don’t bug me.” But insects are extremely beneficial. They pollinate
Eupethecia Moth Caterpillars feed on Death Camas to incorporate the poison as a defense strategy. – Valerie Wright photo
A Regal Fritillary butterfly on a Butterfly Milkweed, along with other pollinating insects. – Valerie Wright photo
Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar. – Bradley Millar
our food. They turn the soil for us. They feed many of our birds. The predatory nature of many species helps to maintain balance between healthy plants and outbreaks of pests. They are essential to human life as we know it. For these reasons, scientists recommend avoiding broad-spectrum insecticides that kill everything. If that bug in your garden looks strange, check to see how many are really there before you spray. Find out what it is, if it is a pest or beneficial if you can. Try for control of pests, rather than extermination. Many times soapy water will take care of the problem. Remember, what you see as a problem may look like dinner to a bird. The author wishes to thank Eva
Dick and Martha Seaton live in the Shane Creek Valley in the Flint Hills near Manhattan. In addition to all of their other interests in nature, Martha is an active organic gardener. Dick Seaton retired as the KSU attorney, but maintains a private practice.
Zurek, insect diagnostician in Kansas State University’s Extension Service, and Valerie Wright, recently retired education director at Konza Prairie Biological Station, for assistance with this article. For suggested further reading, see: • Insects in Kansas, published by the Kansas Department of Agriculture • Caterpillars of Eastern North America, Princeton University Press, 2005; • A Field Guide to Grasshoppers, Katydids, and Crickets of the United States, Cornell University Press, 2004; • Wings, a periodical for the layperson, published by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Portland Oregon.
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Feeding Birds Without Feeding Birds to Cats! A Bird Feeding Strategy that Deters Stalking Cats, Marauding Raccoons, and Messy Opossums
e have an â€œoutdoorâ€? cat with comfortable indoor accommodations in our garage, and other cats occasionally visit our suburban yard. Yet, we love having birds around our small oasis of shrubs and trees. I take particular pride in the Northern Cardinals that come to feed and drink year round, and sometimes arrive in astronomical numbers in hard times during frigid winter periods. On one occasion twenty-five years ago when our home was adjacent to hundreds of acres of pasture and unused land that was erupting in modest-sized cedars, my wife Carol, daughter Kimberly and I partitioned the yard for simultaneous counts and we tallied 118 Cardinals, then 138 in the second count. Maybe we could have claimed some measure of fleeting fame with a Guinness Book listing?
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All those cedars in a savannah-like landscape provided extensive nesting habitat, and we were generous with black oil sunflower seeds in multiple feeders and in thickets on the ground. The landscape has since changed to a housing development, with a forest of large cedars crowded into a closed canopy beyond. But we still have twenty or more Cardinals at prime times just prior to evening light. Our then-five-year-old granddaughter Olympia, visiting for Thanksgiving a year ago, said, “Grandpa, I think you have all the Card-in-als in Man-hat-tan.” They are accompanied throughout the day by a few Blackcapped Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos and a Tufted Titmouse or two as winter regulars. Although it is not easy to train cats whether they are pets or feral, one can deter them from capturing birds at a feeder. Domestic cats still have a natural instinct to hunt birds, mice or whatever moves (except dogs). I tried and gave up. I haven’t seen our cat, Hazel, with a bird and seldom found sufficient evidence to convict her of the charge. Still she would sometimes crouch in a hunting posture partially concealed among rocks near the feeders. That, combined with the fact that a steady stream of Raccoons and Opossums seemed to keep coming at night to feed on sunflower seeds in the platform feeder, drove me – not crazy – but to try something new.
Without a reasonably close thicket birds are less likely to come to the feeders, and I think they are more likely to fly into windows when they panic. We have some reasonably good shrubbery and a perfectly overgrown Forsythia, but at 35 feet it is a bit too far from the best feeder. Thus, the thorn thicket encompassing the base of the feeder is needed. Cardinals and Juncos freeze in place without any need to flee. Once the thorny branches were in place our cat has not persisted in
crouching near the feeders in preparation for an ambush. Likewise, Raccoons and Opossums have not climbed up to feast in the pan on the platform and haven’t knocked down the hanging feeders. Mission accomplished. Now, I simply invite others to bring clippers, meet me in our Pottawatomie County pasture and take away a pickup load of Honey Locust branches as if they were evergreen boughs for holiday decorating. But wear welder’s gloves and don’t drop ‘em in the driveway.
African pastoralists and cattle herders have a solution to co-existence with big cats long ago. Maasai herdsmen made corrals with barriers of thorn branches to keep cattle safely in at night and African Lions out. City covenants probably prohibit a “enkang barrier” around our residential yards, but a wreath of Honey Locust branches embedded in and around the feeders themselves are ideal for the challenge presented by cats and coons. Other branches can be used to make loose brush piles, or “thickets,” and can serve as a vital component of any considerate bird-feeding operation. Unless there is a protective thicket where songbirds can flee when frightened or threatened, they are often sitting ducks for Cooper’s or Sharp-shinned Hawks.
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Cats are Great Pets. Others are
Killers of Birds. Birds are certainly better oﬀ when domestic cats stay indoors and are not allowed to stray freely to hunt and kill birds and other wildlife. A recent study by scientists with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology institute and Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that cats kill 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds every year--in just the U.S. Feline predators include both domestic cats that are outdoors and stray cats that are free ranging in cities and rural areas. most cats seek to kill if they can. Cats are often beneficial where they help control destructive rodents within farmsteads and human habitations, but when there are dozens they decimate other wildlife in the area. Their predation is not selective for House Sparrows, a non-native often-detrimental species. Two-thirds of the bird kills include Cardinals, Wrens and other native songbirds. Long-distance migrants including indigo Buntings, Yellow Warblers and Dark-eyed Juncos fall prey. Birds are most vulnerable when they nest on or near the ground, when young are fledging, and when birds are attracted to feed or water exposed to stealth attacks. inclement weather can magnify the risk when feed and water stations are the only source available. Feral and other free-ranging cats take the greatest toll on native birds, small mammals and reptiles. unowned and other outdoor cats caused about 70 percent of bird mortality, and 90 percent of the carnage of small mammals (including shrews, chipmunks and young rabbits). Worldwide numbers of feral and free roaming cats are staggering. “No matter how much the cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.” —Abraham Lincoln
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Deterring Squirrels Completely Requires Additional Technology Our Fox Squirrels are reluctant to tangle with Honey Locust thorns. I’ve only seen one occasionally climb over to the closest feeder from close-hanging honeysuckle branches, and then if startled it leaps to the ground and heads for the nearest tree without any scrambling through the thorn structure. However, if hauling in and handling thorns isn’t your idea of a good time, and your feeders are next to squirrel springboards, additional technology is needed. That is where a skilled guy, who has a shop and collects iron of various kinds from farm machinery and old wells, can come to the rescue. The design is simple. It requires a ten-foot length of old well rod to form a shepherd’s hook, and three extra foot-long pieces to form spikes to be welded at the base to drive into the ground and firmly secure the structure. A large metal washer is welded over it about three feet from ground level, and an old disc blade is placed loose over the upper section.
Most squirrels, Raccoons and Opossums cannot readily climb up the rod and get past the “floppy disc.” The feeder is hanging from the hook four feet above the unstable disc. We had Darrold Schoeder of Newport, Nebraska make a couple for the Niobrara Sanctuary guesthouses so feeders didn’t have to be refilled so often. That way Goldfinches and other birds could rely on a dependable source of sunflower seeds to supplement (but not replace) other natural foods. A lady recently told me that she simply gave up bird feeding last spring, primarily because of the cost of feeding too many squirrels. Although squirrels are also appealing, the joy of backyard bird feeding and associated birding can be made more affordable if some of these crafty critters can be kept on a natural diet of acorns, walnuts and tree buds.
Squirrels are a delight. They deserve some, but not all of the sunflower seeds. Mark Twain wrote insightfully about cats. Had he fed birds he'd have left volumes about the cleverness of squirrels.
Bringing in Neotropical Migrants in Spring with Water and Habitat A variety of trees with an understory of shrubs extending into the lower limbs, with foliage from the upper canopy down to the ground, combined with a good source of water below, are sometimes magnets for spring migrants. Early May of 2013 brought a colorful display of neotropical passerines to our yard. The list included an Indigo Bunting male that stayed around for days, a Spotted Towhee and a male Summer Tanager. Our son, Ryan, was visiting and he commented that he had never seen a Painted Bunting and hoped to add it to the list. Later that afternoon he called to say, “guess what,” a male Painted Bunting had just appeared next to the feeder. For the first time, I seriously courted the attention of Baltimore Orioles with oranges cut in half. I impaled them on thorns and the metal ends of the shepherd’s hooks holding feeders. A colorful ice cream dish was also filled with grape jelly. The reward was a number of Baltimore Orioles and one Orchard Oriole. Prior to their arrival, a Northern Waterthrush, two Winter Wrens and an Eastern Phoebe visited the minnow pond near the feeders. At various other times in late winter and early spring Yellow-rumped Warblers came in for refreshing drinks, joining American Robins, Cedar Waxwings, Cardinals and a Yellowshafted Flicker. Other notables in the branches and along the trunks of the larger trees include Red-breasted Nuthatches, White-breasted Nuthatches, and one or two Brown Creepers. I seldom see Brown Creepers except during blizzard-like conditions. They creep up the trunk of a Cottonwood tree and are
almost indistinguishable from the rough bark. Dead trees and snags are particularly attractive for some birds. Folks who trim every limb off of trees within reach and mow everything underneath as in city parks don’t do it for the accommodation of birds. I’ve often thought that dead and dying trees and limbs are more valuable as bird habitat than the average living tree— although both are important. I’ve allowed a couple dead pine
trees to stand in place and had a dead cottonwood in the yard for a while. Downy Woodpeckers nested and raised young in the cavities they created, and they introduced the fledglings to the suet that came from one of our grass-fed steers. Leafless branches make choice singing perches for Cardinals, and they are the preferred perches for Mourning Doves. Although some branches may fall during a storm, if they aren’t over the house, the street, a powerline or one’s car, it is usually not a problem. Fallen limbs can be used to make a loose brush pile in a secluded corner of the yard, next to shrubbery. A brush pile adds to the ground habitat needed by Carolina Wrens and contributes to their prospect of finding meals of attached insect eggs! Carolina Wrens, in turn, add to the delight of those of us who enjoy their calls and songs in every season.’ -- Article and photos by Ron Klataske
A Bird-Friendly Yard, Farm or Ranch is a More Joyous Place Birds featured in the photos include Northern Cardinals, a male Goldfinch, a pair of House Finches, Dark-eyed Juncos two male Baltimore Orioles, and a Carolina Wren singing in secure shrubbery. NATURE IS A FRAME OF REFERENCE FOR QUALITY OF LIFE “Some birds are not meant to be caged, that's all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go….” —Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption: A Story from Different Seasons
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U NNATURAL D ISASTERS :
The Last of a Species 100 Years Ago
Article by Robert T. McElroy
ears ago my wife Jean inherited a small library of books from a now deceased elderly aunt. Most of the books were published in the mid to late 19th century and I tended to consider them wall decorations. Recently I began to go through them and found two that had accounts that I thought would be of interest to modern conservationists. Both stories are in general well known, but they carry the wonder and urgency of someone who was there when it happened. This first feature focuses on the Passenger Pigeon; the next edition of PRAIRIE WINGS will highlight the views of Col. Richard Irving Dodge on the American Bison. They speak for themselves with minimal commentary needed.
The first is BIRDS: Illustrated Natural History written by a Rev J. G. Wood of London, published in 1871. He wrote very long anthologies (700+ pages) each on BIRDS, MAMMALS, and FISH. Below is a partial account of his description of the Passenger Pigeon. He recounts the stories of Wilson and Audubon without giving them a reference or even their first names. He undoubtedly meant Alexander Wilson known as the “the father of American ornithology.” Wilson was the first American to spend much
of his life devoted to the discovery and description of American birds. He published a natural history of birds titled American Ornithology in 1808 to 1814. It predates the work of the better-known Audubon by two decades. John James Audubon, lived from 1785 to 1851, also sought to document much of American bird life and published a colorplate book entitled The Birds of America in 1827 to 1839. By the time Wood published his stories from Wilson and Audubon they where forty to sixty years out of date and the Passenger Pigeon was in serious decline. Wood begins: “Among the most extraordinary of birds, the Passenger Pigeon may take a very high rank, not on account of its size or beauty but on account of the extraordinary multitudes in which it sometimes migrates from one place to another. The scenes which take place during these migrations are so strange, so wonderful, and so entirely unlike any events on this side of the Atlantic that could not be believed but for the trustworthy testimony by which they are corroborated.” Wood used the account of two “well known naturalists” Wilson and Audubon, without specific references. Wilson proceeds to describe a breeding place seen by himself in
Painting by Louis Agassiz Fuertes. Juvenile (left), male (center), female (right)
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Billing Passenger Pigeons painting by John James Audubon. Pigeons and doves normally bill when standing next to each other on the same branch.
Kentucky, “which was several miles in breadth, was said to be nearly forty miles in length, and in which every tree was absolutely loaded with nests. All the smaller branches were destroyed by the birds, many of the large limbs were broken off and thrown on the ground, while no few of the grand forest trees themselves were killed as surely as if the axe had been employed for their destruction. The Pigeons had arrived about the tenth of April, and left it by the end of May.” He then describes the systematic “harvesting” of the pigeons better described by Audubon in the following paragraphs. Wilson witnessed such vast flights of pigeons that are hard for the modern reader to comprehend even when compared to roosting flights of Sandhill Cranes on the Platte River in Nebraska or Snow Geese returning to a wetland preserve in the Rainwater Basin. “When about one o’clock, the pigeons which I had observed flying the greater part of the morning northerly began to return in such immense numbers as I never before had witnessed. They were flying with great steadiness and rapidity, at a height beyond gunshot, in several strata deep, and so close together that could shot have reached them, one discharge would not have failed of bringing down several individuals. From right to left, as far as the eye could reach, the breadth of this vast procession extended, seeming everywhere equally crowded.” Wilson reported this vast torrent of birds to be over several miles in width and
continued for over four hours. “Wilson observed a column eight or ten miles in length appearing from Kentucky, high in the air, steering over to Indiana. The leaders of this great body would sometimes gradually vary their course, until it formed a large bend of more than a mile in diameter, those behind tracing the exact route of their predecessors. This would continue sometimes long after both extremities were beyond the reach of sight; so that the whole with its glittering undulations marked a space on the face of the heavens resembling the winding of a vast
and majestic river. When this bend became very great the birds, as if sensible of the unnecessarily circuitous course they were taking, suddenly changed their direction, so that what was in column before became an immense front, straightening all its indentures until it swept the heavens in one vast and infinitely extended line. Sometimes a hawk would make a sweep on a particular part of the column, when, almost as quick as lightning, that part shot downward out of the common track; but soon rising again, continued advancing at the same rate as before. This reflection was continued by those behind, who on arriving at this point dived down almost perpendicularly to a great depth, and rising, followed the exact path of those before him.” Audubon has also commented on the same circumstance stating; “but I cannot describe to you the extreme beauty of their aerial evolutions when a hawk chanced to press up upon the rear of a flock. At once, like a torrent, and with a noise like thunder, they rushed into a compact mass, pressing upon each other towards the center. In these almost solid masses, they darted forward in undulating and angular lines, descended and swept close over the earth with inconceivable velocity, mounted perpendicularly so as to resemble a vast column, and when high, were seen wheeling and twisting within their continued lines, which resembled the coils of a gigantic serpent.” Audubon described a nesting site in Kentucky: “consisting of great trees with little underbrush and estimated to be three miles wide and forty miles long. He reported few pigeons were then to be seen, but a great number of persons with horses and wagons, gun, and ammunition, had already established
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Extinction is forever. The greatest flights of birds, likely the most abundant species, recorded in historic times over American forests will never grace our skies again. Our mission is to ensure that a culture of conservation prevents this unnatural fate from being imposed on other species by not just needless extermination and habitat destruction, but by lethal neglect and inaction. encampments on the borders. Two farmers from the vicinity of Russelville, distant more than a hundred miles, had driven upwards of three hundred hogs to be fattened on the pigeons that were to be slaughtered. Here and there the people employed in plucking and salting what had already been killed were seen sitting in the midst of large piles of these birds. Many trees two feet in diameter I observed were broken off at no great distance from the ground; and the branches of many of the largest and tallest had given way, as if the forest had been swept by a tornado. Everything proved to me that the number of birds resorting to this part of the forest must be immense beyond conception. Suddenly there burst forth a general cry of: “Here they come.” The noise which they made, though yet distant, reminded me of a hard gale at sea, passing through the rigging of a close-reefed vessel. As the birds arrived and passed over me I felt a current of air that surprised me. Thousands were soon knocked down by the pole-men; the birds continued to pour in; the fires were lighted, and a most magnificent as well as wonderful and almost terrifying sight presented itself. The pigeons arriving by thousands alighted everywhere, one above another, until solid masses as large as hogsheads were formed on the branches all round. Here and there the perches gave way with a crash and falling on the ground destroyed hundreds of the birds beneath, forcing down the dense groups with which every stick was loaded. “It was scene of uproar and confusion; no one dared venture within the line of devastation, the picking up of the dead and wounded being left for next morning’s employment. The pigeons were constantly coming, and it was past midnight before I perceived a decrease in the number of those that arrived. Towards the approach of day the noise in some
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measure subsided; and by dawn all the pigeons that were able to fly were gone, having flown in a different direction than whence they came. The howling of the wolves now reached our ears, and the foxes, lynxes, cougars, bears, raccoons, and opossums were seen sneaking off, whilst eagles and hawks of different species, accompanied by a crowd of vultures, came to supplant them, and enjoy their share of the spoil.” Thus ends the account by Rev Wood. Below is an obituary of the Passenger Pigeon provided by the Smithsonian. “The notable decrease of passenger pigeons started when professional hunters began netting and shooting the birds to sell in the city markets. Although even the Indians always had used the birds as food to some extent, the real slaughter began in the 1800s. “There were no laws restricting the number of pigeons killed or the way they were taken. Because the birds were communal in habit, they were easily netted by using baited traps and decoys. The birds were shot at the nesting sites, young squabs were knocked out of nests with long sticks, and pots of burning sulphur were placed under the roosting trees so the fumes would daze the birds and they would fall to the ground. Hundreds of thousands of passenger pigeons were killed for private consumption and for sale on the market, where they often sold for as little as fifty cents a dozen. By 1850 the destruction of the pigeons was in full force, and by 1860 it was noticed that the numbers of birds seemed to be decreasing, but still the slaughter continued. “One of the last large nestings of passenger pigeons occurred at Petoskey, Michigan, in 1878. Here 50,000 birds per day were killed and this rate continued for nearly five months. When the adult birds that survived this
massacre attempted second nestings at new sites, they were soon located by the professional hunters and killed before they had a chance to raise any young. The passenger pigeon's technique of survival had been based on mass tactics. There had been safety in its large flocks, which often numbered hundreds of thousands of birds. When a flock of this size established itself in an area, the number of local animal predators (such as wolves, foxes, weasels, and hawks) was so small compared to the total number of birds that little damage could be inflicted on the flock as a whole. “This colonial way of life became very dangerous when man became a predator on the flocks. When the birds were massed together, especially at a nesting site, it was easy for man to slaughter them in such huge numbers that there were not enough birds left to successfully reproduce the species.” The wanton slaughter of the birds devastated their numbers, and following that the removal of forests for farmland and timbering of much of what remained eliminated or so altered their habitat that prospects for recovery to even low numbers were rendered impossible, especially in a century when almost everything that could be shot was shot. There were no organized, and few individual, efforts to save imperiled species. In fact, it wasn’t until 102 years after Wood published this book on Birds that Congress passed the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Martha, the last known Passenger Pigeon, died in the Cincinnati Zoo in September 1914. In her last year of life 100 years ago, she was the last of a prominent North American species. Magnificent flocks filled the heavens with flights resembling “the winding of vast and majestic” rivers.
Horse-hair Bridles Link History mong the artifacts left at the Hutton house after Harold and Lucille’s gift to Audubon of Kansas was an extensive collection of Native American stone arrowheads and a horse-hair bridle. Unfortunately, there is no provenance on many of these materials. The horse-hair bridle is a unique piece of Americana whose history dates back to the Plains Indians and early cowboy or vaquero. The use of horse hair in plaiting as useful horse tack probably originated with the Spaniards, who through their missionaries, would have taught the technique to the Native Americans of Mexico and the Southern plains, much of their work is described as very artistic and beautiful, besides being wonderfully serviceable. It was through contact with the Plains Indians that the skill was passed to the cowboys. Cowboys would have had an abundant supply of horse hair along with time during the winter to create usable pieces of work, often bridles.
In the early 1900s prisons also played a significant role in the history of horsehair art. Prisoners from places like Deer Lodge, Montana; Yuma, Arizona; Rawlins, Wyoming; and Walla Walla, Washington used their time behind bars to develop their skills to an art form. The art was usually passed from prisoner to prisoner. Sometimes the one wishing to learn would have to make some form of payment in exchange for the sharing of knowledge. Many of the most valuable, historic pieces collected today are from these prisons. The Hutton bridle is likely prison-made early in the last century. On examination, the bit is plain but delicate and small, suggestive of those made in Deer Lodge Prison, Montana. There are two nickel-silver conchas with handstamped cross-designs of small squares placed on each end of the brow band. The brow band is a flat strap of leather covered with a horse-hair design of diamond-in-diamond of red, turquoise and natural colors seen in prison/ penitentiary types. The throat latch has a zig-zag ( lightning) pattern which is
Bob McElroy is a retired general surgeon, and a founder of Tallgrass Surgical in Topeka. He has Tennessee Walkers on his rural farm and ranch property. With friends and family as guests, he has frequently taken them on road trips to destinations including the Niobrara Sanctuary, the Haverfield Ranch, and the Badlands of South Dakota.
initially brown, turquoise and white, with the last third red, natural and white, with a large slip knot in black and red, ending in black and white tassels. There are two bands for the cheeks of the bridle, but with three at the poll including the throatlatch. Each side has a slide for adjusting the length of the bridle, which is described as the “Native American fashion”, and ending in two black and white tassels. The mid cheeks are thickened and done in red, brown, and turquoise colors with a diamond-in-diamond pattern. The bit is held by a knot rosette through a terminal loop arrangement that is very finely done again with a slide for adjustment. There are no reins. This important example of western art will be on display at the Hutton Guesthouse when the “visitor center” section display portion is completed. – Robert T. McElroy
“The dog may be man’s best friend but the horse wrote history.” – Unknown.
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A World Without Native Cats Would be Less Wondrous Whether Snow Leopards or Cheetahs on other continents, or Mountain Lions in North America, we should find ways to share many parts of this planet with native cats. AOK supports management and conservation policies and practices designed to enhance opportunities for co-existence with big cats. Mountain lions (Puma concolor) are native to Kansas, Nebraska and all of the contiguous states, but they were extirpated in the central Great Plains following settlement by European immigrants due to unregulated hunting, trapping and poisoning. Deer, elk and other large prey were also decimated for decades. For eighty years following extirpation of wildlife in the Great Plains, the slaughter of Cougars continued in the west with much of it being conducted by federal wildlife control agents. Public outrage against indiscriminate “predator control” started to slow the killing by the mid 1970s and Mountain Lion populations started to rebound in western states.
Mountain Lions in The Black Hills During the last twenty years Mountain Lions have gradually reoccupied some of the most accommodating habitat within the Great Plains, establishing the most notable population in the Black Hills in the late 1990s and 2000s. A few recolonized the badlands of North Dakota. Recently a small population estimated to peak at 22 has colonized in the Pine Ridge of Nebraska. Following the devastating wild fires of 2012, the unburned habitat was expected to support fewer, 15 to 18. Most other Mountain Lions observed, photographed or killed elsewhere in the region (from Minnesota to Oklahoma) have been dispersing young (usually males) coming from the Black Hills population, or the Rocky Mountain region. A population of more than 200 Mountain Lions have co-existed with people in the Black Hills in the most recent decade without any serious assaults on humans—even though millions of people hike, camp, picnic, fish and hunt there each year. A quarter million residents are also interspersed throughout this highly fragmented but remarkable landscape, and almost every lion territory includes human residences. Thus, many lions live in close proximity with people and human activity. Biologists with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department and partnering universities have conducted extensive research on Mountain Lions in the
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area and this investment provides a foundation of knowledge on their behavior, survival and emigration. Rural residents have a diversity of livestock, companion and novelty animals without widespread or sustained problems. Offending cats (usually subadults) are routinely removed, even though lax husbandry is often the underlining problem. Llamas, goats, sheep and miniature donkeys closely resemble natural prey and are tempting when exposed within prime lion habitat. Predation on cattle has not been documented in the Black Hills. Mother cows are usually protective. Deer and other natural prey are abundant. The speculated prospect of lion predation is almost always exaggerated by uninformed people in other areas without a history of first hand knowledge. Likewise, the media often uses stock photos of a snarling lion that unnecessarily alarms people with news articles when they occur elsewhere in the Midwest. Better-informed and enlightened coverage, and conversations among all stakeholders, are needed for acceptance of this apex predator as a part of our wildlife heritage. The acceptance of a Mountain Lion population in the Black Hills by the state’s sportsmen and sportswomen— and other residents—is commendable. They are willing to accept the recommendations of biologists to maintain a population around 175. The big cats take a share of the deer herd, and some elk, but most residents recognize this as a part of the delicate natural system and many people value their presence. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are about 1 million car accidents with deer each year that kill 200 Americans. Many of those deaths occur when a second vehicle slams into the first vehicle or passengers who got out on the road. Unfortunately, a prominent leader/lobbyist for a sportsmen organization and outfitter in Nebraska has exemplified the attitude of total intolerance by promoting the idea that Mountain Lions do not belong in Nebraska. It is not unusual to hear persons boast that their approach is to “shoot, shovel and shut up,” as was relayed to me first in Logan County, Kansas.
stockgrowers by the Cheetah Conversely, it is most refreshing to Conservation Fund note that some ranch landowners are in Namibia. Far too receptive to accommodating Cougars. An few Americans are example was reported in the Omaha willing to accept the World Herald. Deric Anderson, a cattle prospect of ANY producer (electrical contractor and losses to predators, hunter) from northeast Nebraska who or implement such owns a ranch near Harrison in the Pine husbandry practices Ridge area (the first area to allow limited to accommodate colegal hunting) said he doesn’t mind existence. Mountain Lions on his land along Hat Nebraska Game Creek. ”The cats don’t bother me,” he and Parks said. “They don’t bother cattle. I kind of Commission like having them around.” biologists have been That positive philosophy reminds me A wild Cheetah crossing the edge of a stock pond on a ranch working with all of a stockman in Namibia, in southern in Namibia. Worldwide 75 percent of large carnivores are available information Africa, who told my son Ryan and me of declining, many are endangered. Threats include habitat for the past several an extraordinary effort he made to save destruction, loss of prey and persecution by humans. years with the two Cheetah cubs on his ranch. The objective of ranch couple said that livestock losses are limited quota to secure more acceptance developing protocols for conservation a part of stock operations and he is of the species both as a game animal and management plans designed to willing to lose up to five percent to among sportsmen and ranchers, and as sustain breeding populations in areas of Cheetahs and an occasional Leopard. part of the state’s delicate wildlife sufficient suitable habitat, with Livestock guarding dogs of many breeds heritage among others. The sale of consideration given to social acceptance are effective at protecting sheep and goat permits also helps provide funding for and other factors. Part of the herds even as they range through research and management. department’s goal has expanded to thornbush terrain. Anatolians Shepherd The initial staff recommendation provide a restricted hunting season with a and Kangals are trained and provided to published in May for a hunting season restricted hunting to the Pine Ridge area with an allowable take of no more than three— with no more than one female. All other parts of the state would have remained closed to Cougar hunting. Unfortunately, the Commission discarded that balanced science-based plan. Three commissioners then came up with an approach that opened up 85 percent of the state to cougar killing at any time of the year and with allowable use of dogs and other means that dramatically diminish the prospect for any extended survival. It also opened the door to the prospect of illegal killing in the three management units. Of 83 letters to the commission, 80 were reportedly against this type of season. Unless violators are caught red-handed, they can simply claim they shot any Cougar in their possession in the always-open “Prairie Unit.” They also increased the One of a series of photos by Lori Iverson / USFWS take to four and doubled the quota on females to two in the Pine Ridge. The National Elk Refuge Outdoor Recreation Planner in Wyoming witnessed a Maintaining females in a small spectacular standoff between two juvenile Mountain Lions and five Coyotes. The population is the most critical Coyotes let the cats know they weren’t welcome in their area. The Mountain Lions requirement for sustainable management. sought safety on a buck and rail fence for over an hour while the Coyotes lurked in the background. SPRING / SUMMER 2014
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Ron Klataske photo
Cougars in Nebraska
The Niobrara River Valley The Nebraska Game and Fish Commission documented a female, and a daughter of that female east of Valentine in 2012-2013. Thus, initial reproduction has occurred. An adult male, which was determined by DNA to be the father of the young female, was shot by a deer hunter north of Long Pine in November 2012. It is difficult to envision establishment of a sustainable population in this area if immigration is cut off and if any that venture more than 15 miles south of the Niobrara River are subject to yearround hunting. At least one lion was periodically documented by tracks and trail camera photos within and in the immediate vicinity of the Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary from May 2010 to April 2012. Mountain Lions do their best to avoid interaction with people—that is the only way the species has been able to survive the last 150 years. We are pleased that the sanctuary is part of a relatively accommodating natural and pastoral landscape in the Niobrara River valley extending from Valentine to the river’s confluence with the Missouri River. A 100-mile reach of river valley bluffs and wooded canyons may eventually support a very small breeding population. An abundance of White-tailed Deer, Raccoons, Wild Turkeys, Porcupines and other prey is available. In mid-September a trail camera on a Platte River island near Freemont captured 19 images of an adult Mountain Lion over two days. This particular cat had distinguishing markings on a rear leg, and amazingly this camera-ready cougar had been photographed by another trail camera near Silver Creek, sixty miles upstream, twelve days earlier.
existing statute of limitations (five years) would provide scientific insight on their dispersal into the state. I saw one briefly south of Manhattan in 2007. Two months earlier a neighbor with a guest watched and photographed one walk across an open meadow nearby. It was possibly the same lion. We posted the photo on our website. At one time or another over a span of several years numerous residents of this rural area saw the lion and some referred to it as their “putty cat.” Sightings within the northern Flint Hills have been widespread. Unfortunately, the frequent sightings within the McDowell Creek valley ceased several years ago and it has probably perished. In 2004 Oklahoma authorities found a lion hit by a train 40 miles south of the Kansas state line in the Arkansas River valley. It was wearing a tracking collar from the Black Hills. Scores of people may have had a fleeting glance of the young male as it traveled in four states between points separated by 660 miles. An unknown number have traveled within or through Kansas, although they only started showing up on photographs made by trail cameras in recent years as these devices have blossomed in every neck of the woods. The photos have now provided confirmation throughout the state. Prior to that, an untold number of individuals who reported sightings were generally told by agency officials that they were likely mistaken, and the reports were not “confirmed.” Some sightings were based on a brief glance and some were misidentifications, but we have heard the details of scores that were convincingly correct in detail, going back to at least 1965. Many observers, however, felt that they were treated by agency skeptics as if they were
reporting extraterrestrials. As a result, many solid sightings went unreported. With the agency’s eroding credibility it wasn’t unusual to hear suggestions that our state wildlife agency (KDWP) was releasing Mountain Lions and keeping it secret. That, of course, was a myth. A Cougar was killed by a landowner in the Red Hills of southcentral Kansas in 2008. It was only discovered by law enforcement officials when word got out that he took it to a Texas taxidermist. A biologist with KDWP proclaimed it was the first confirmation of a lion in Kansas since one was shot more than a hundred years earlier in 1904 in Ellis County. Nebraska’s agency didn’t get painted with the same brush of suspicion because they published a brochure on Mountain Lions, established a policy for dealing with potential conflicts, had more confirmations, and publicized the emerging population in the northwestern panhandle. The only misfortune has been the unnecessary killing by agency personnel of young lions that came too close to communities or a farmstead and took refuge in a tree or elsewhere waiting until they could proceed the following night. Almost all habitat corridors along major streams are interrupted by towns and cities, and young lions have been killed in recent years from Scottsbluff and South Sioux City to St. Paul. An extreme example of this type of official absurdity was recently demonstrated in Wall, South Dakota. Around 8 a.m. on December 9 a city employee spotted a lion crawling into a
Cameras Provide Confirmation in Kansas By 2007 I received confirmation of two Mountain Lions that had been shot and killed in northeastern Kansas, and another wounded in the Smoky Hills. Heaven only knows how many have been shot within the state. We do not condone wildlife violations, but maybe amnesty for those who killed Cougars prior to the
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Two of the first trail camera photos made of a Cougar in Rock County Nebraska. They were made at the same location on private land near the Niobrara Sanctuary by Lana Micheel.
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