Hopeful news for Kansas prairies

The North American Grasslands Conservation Act would recognize our grasslands are often working lands, integral to rural economies, as well necessary for wildlife habitat.

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December 29, 2021 - 9:13 AM

The Kansas Flint Hills stretch out near Matfield Green. For the purposes of the proposed North American Grasslands Conservation Act, “grasslands” includes tallgrass, mixed grass, and shortgrass, native prairie, sagebrush shrub-steppe, savanna grasslands, glades, and other related grassland ecosystems. (Shawna Bethell/Kansas Reflector)

Amid the chaos of 2020, I reached a point when I needed to get away: from people’s anger and fear, the suffocating cluttered skyline, even the lush vegetation where I live. Open space was what I craved, and to find it I secured a small place in the Flint Hills, where for the next several days I walked grassland trails reacquainting myself with an ecosystem I had long appreciated but had woefully lost touch with.

It is rare to find a Kansan who does not know the quieting whisper of prairie grass or the sweet, clear trill of a lark. These grasslands and their creatures make us whole. Yet we also know this ecosystem is disappearing at a record pace, which is why I am looking forward with cautious optimism to a proposal to protect these lands.

Currently in its final draft stages, a proposal for The North American Grasslands Conservation Act states that the act would express “a vision … that would create a landowner-driven, voluntary, incentive-based program to conserve and restore threatened grassland ecosystems.” The result of collaboration by more than a dozen entities, including the National Wildlife Federation, Quail Unlimited, and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the proposal is based on the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which has brought millions of dollars to the state for wetland conservation over the years, including $4 million in 2021 alone.

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