Kansas Wildlife Federation

Thinking About Kansas Wildlife

Go almost anywhere else in the country and mention Kansas wildlife, and most likely you'll get a blank look. For most of America, these two words don't come together easily.

Yet Kansas is a critical part of America's wildlife heritage. Our state enjoys world-class deer herds, and has one of the last prairie populations of pronghorn antelope left in America. Beavers, bobcats, and foxes all live here. Almost half of America's migratory water birds come through Kansas, and the state is an important route for the monarch butterfly migration. You can see Kansas lakes and streams teeming with teal, mallards, geese, as well as bass, crappie, walleye, and other sportsfish.

Hunting and fishing are an important tradition in our state. We enjoy our state's wildlife and many of us value it as a resource. In 2001, there were about 2.7 million people living in Kansas - who bought over 500,000 hunting and fishing licenses. Per capita, few states enjoy that kind of powerful interest in the outdoors and what it has to offer.

Yet we face big obstacles when trying to keep our state's game and fish healthy and thriving. Kansas water quality is among the poorest in the nation, with almost half of the state's wetlands compromised. Most of our rivers and streams aren't fit for fishing or swimming. Trying to preserve lands for public use or for wildlife refuge sets off bitter fights that last for years. Many people in the state view land that isn't under plow or hoof as somehow having gone to waste.

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Since the 1850s, the lands and waters of Kansas have been looked upon as a blank check - a no-interest loan to support agricultural activities.

But times change, and today Kansas is no longer an agricultural state. Most people in Kansas don't live on farms or work in agriculture. Far from being the only game in town, farming and ranching now accounts for less than 10% of the state's Gross State Product. And as the farms empty and no new opportunities replace them, Kansas itself is emptying out: most Kansas counties have lost population for decades in a row, and our state is steadily hemorrhaging young people.

It's time for Kansans to stand up and be counted for a new vision of our land and water. To build our state's economy and to keep a high quality of life here, we need to treasure what we have, and not only preserve it - but actually make it better, to restore our state's prairies, streams, and wetlands. This won't just make hunting and fishing better - although it certainly will - but it will also make the state a better place to live, richer and more inviting in every sense of the word.

The Kansas Wildlife Federation is proud to spearhead this effort. The following pages detail what must be done in order to bring in one of the greatest waves of change to our landscape since the first settlers carved into the prairie soil.

© 2004 Kansas Wildlife Federation, all rights reserved.
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