Monday, November 15, 2010

A million acres in Flint Hills will be new wildlife refuge

About 1.1 million acres of some of the nation’s last tallgrass prairie in Kansas’ Flint Hills will be set aside for a new national wildlife refuge, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Friday. The new Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area partners private landowners with conservationists to preserve the ecologically and culturally significant tallgrass prairie. “This is a template for the way conservation should occur in the 21st century,” Salazar said Friday in Wichita. “... As we look around the country on how we protect very special places, we’ll look to Kansas and this area as an example for all of us to follow.” The Flint Hills project uses voluntary, perpetual conservation easements that pay ranchers not to subdivide or commercially develop the land while allowing them to continue grazing their cattle and haying on the lush prairie that underlies the state’s agricultural heritage. The perpetual conservation easements, which are voluntary, cover the next 20 years and will be managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department. Ranchers and other landowners will maintain ownership and control of their property but will be paid 30 to 40 percent of market value not to develop the land for housing or otherwise disturb the prairie. Officials are “strategically targeting” — based on the value to wildlife — about 1.1 million acres for conservation easements out of some 3 million acres within the boundaries of the Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area. Easements on about 60,000 acres are already under some type of conservation easement...more

Go here to view the Land Protection Plan for this area.

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