Kansas Wildlife Federation

Appropriate Wind Power Placement

The Need
The word "Kansas" comes from the Sioux word for "People of the South Wind" and it's true that Kansas is generally windy. In fact, Kansas is one of the states best suited for wind power generation. But while wind power certainly is non-polluting, like any other industry, it can do a lot of harm, and unfortunately, it's not as benign as is often supposed. Wind power plants are huge projects, with one hundred or more turbines. Turbines can be up to 450 feet tall - taller than most skyscrapers - and the blades up to 350 feet across. When the fast moving blades are sited in the middle of bird migration routes, the birds can't avoid being cut to pieces.

Besides wreaking havoc on migratory birds, wind power plants disrupt the mating of one of our state's most famous birds, the prairie chicken. These birds will not nest in the path of a tall shadow, and one wind power facility disperses prairie chicken mating over an area of 15,000 acres.

The Flint Hills is one of Kansas' secrets, and it is exactly the wrong place to put wind power. It's America's last large tallgrass prairie, much of it looking as it did in the 1850s. The Flint Hills are the best habitat left in the state for the prairie chicken, and they're also in the path of the Central Flyway. Simply put, there is no way to put wind power generators in the Flint Hills that is environmentally sound and responsible.

The Solution
The Kansas state legislature has delegated responsibility for wind power generation to county agencies. To keep the Flint Hills from being taken apart by thousands of 45-story tall turbines, KWF will need to get involved in local planning. This not only means doing old-fashioned grassroots organizing and volunteer recruitment, but also doing one-on-one meetings with county officials. Additionally, it's going to be just as necessary to work with wind power proponents and companies to develop siting requirements that will keep wind power out of the Flint Hills.

Contributions to our Wind Power campaign will help us save the Flint Hills by paying for a new staff person to work just on Flint Hills issues, as well as the expenses associated with volunteer organizing, as well as media and education materials to show Flint Hills residents and officials what's really at risk.

Land Management Issues

The Need
While wind power is one real threat, the other major threat to the Flint Hills is slower, more insidious, and "under the radar." Bad land management practices, such as bad burning, no burning at all, and sprawling "ranchettes" are turning North America's last great tallgrass prairie into shrubs and suburbs.

Each spring, some ranchers in the Flint Hills set fire to the prairie in order to get better quality grass for their cattle. While fires are a necessary part of the prairie ecology, massive burns that take place at the same time deprive the prairie chicken and other prairie animals of food and cover. The only states where the prairie chicken populations have increased - South Dakota and Nebraska - also happen to be the places where the range is burned in rotation, not all at once.

Additionally, the stunning sunsets, open vistas, and comparatively cheap land prices are driving sprawl development in numerous counties in the Flint Hills. One of the world's great remaining grassland treasures is being eaten up 20 and 80 acres at a time, cut up into 5-acre parcels that slice apart the prairie.

The Solution
In order to preserve the Flint Hills, we need to work with county officials and land-owners to give them options. This means working with ranchers to open up land to hunting leases, working with officials to help them find ways to market their counties to tourism and outsiders, as well as develop planning strategies that concentrate development in places where it's already occurred.

This campaign will start small, and is intended to build on the success our Wind Power work has already been having. Contributions to this effort will help get the ball rolling by paying for educational materials and media aimed at land managers, as well as helping recruit and train volunteer leadership in each of the Flint Hills counties.

© 2004 Kansas Wildlife Federation, all rights reserved.
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