Monthly Archives: September 2013

Greater Prairie-Chicken & Wind Energy

Considerations and Implications for Wind Energy Development:

Greater Prairie-Chicken Research1 at the Meridian Way Wind Energy Facility in Kansas

Prepared by Rob Manes & Brian Obermeyer

July 30, 2013

The Sandercock et al. Meridian Way research project, Effects of Wind Power Development on the Population Biology of Greater Prairie-Chicken in Kansas, is an important and scientifically rigorous study, which was supported by The Nature Conservancy and other conservation entities.  The purpose of this brief examination is to highlight concerns and appropriate cautions regarding the application of the study’s findings.  In total, the study indicates that wind energy facilities in fragmented grasslands may pose some detriments to prairie-chickens; but those detriments, in certain settings, may be less than previously anticipated and therefore mitigatable.  The study also points to land management strategies that may improve prairie-chicken habitat conditions to offset unavoidable impacts. 

While the study outcomes are encouraging, there is concern over misinterpretation and misapplication of its findings via extrapolation to other species, ecological site types, conditions, and geographies; simply put, it could be used erroneously to facilitate unmitigated wind energy development in areas of large and unfragmented native habitats. Associated concerns fall into five categories:  1) other credible studies show negative effects of anthropogenic features on prairie-chickens and other birds;  2) effects of habitat fragmentation at the study site may mask displacement and other negative impacts;  3) site fidelity behavior of prairie-chickens may delay or mask significant population impacts;  4) the study was designed with three replicates, but two sites ultimately were not developed for wind energy, so that no off-site data comparisons were possible, and reconciliation of conflicting study findings remains to be achieved; and  5) Kansas offers ample wind energy development opportunity outside areas of intact native habitat and where ecological impact concerns are minimal.

Other studies2,3have demonstrated avoidance of human intrusions (e.g., powerlines and roadways) by greater prairie-chickens.  Additional research findings clearly indicate displacement of lesser prairie-chickens and sage-grouse from areas of similar development intensity4,5,6. Relevant to the Meridian Way study, prairie-chickens at the Elk River wind project near Beaumont, KS showed lekking avoidance of turbines, particularly within the tower arrays7,8.  Some of these findings may be explained by general declines in the area’s prairie-chicken population; however, lek monitoring summaries from the Elk River project site indicate that the facility displaces prairie-chickens.

Before construction in 2005, 10 leks with a total 103 birds were located within the Elk River project area (defined by a 1-mile radius of turbines).  Four years after construction, only one lek remained active with three birds. The number of leks and birds increased in 2011 and 2012, but this is probably explained, in large part, by a change in survey methods, which expanded the area surveyed to include leks within a two-mile buffer of turbines (rather than 1 mile, as previously examined). Mean lek distance from planned turbine sites in 2005 (pre-construction) was 0.36 mile, whereas mean distance increased after the turbines were erected, to 0.95 mi. in 2011 and 1.11 mi. in 2012. All of the post-construction leks were located on the outer periphery of the turbine arrays. Since construction, there has been no occupancy of the six pre-construction leks located within the interior of the facility.

As the study states, the Meridian Way project site is ecologically fragmented by cropland, farmsteads and roads, which may have influenced prairie-chickens to nest and brood-rear closer to turbines than they would have in a more intact landscape. The limited post-construction monitoring period, coupled with the fragmented habitat conditions and site fidelity of resident birds, also may have masked avoidance behavior. Comparison of the Elk River and Meridian Way sites’ fragmentation shows that intact prairie within a 10-mile radius of turbines at Elk River totaled 85.7 percent and 34.6 percent at the Meridian Way site.  Within a three-mile radius, intact prairie was measured at 93 percent at Elk River and 64 percent at Meridian Way. And within one mile of the turbines, intactness was measured at 98.7 percent and 73.5 percent at Elk River and Meridian Way, respectively. It is important to note here that the study findings indicate that prairie-chickens reproduced more successfully in the relatively fragmented Meridian Way landscape, because large-scale spring burning is significantly less common at the Meridian Way project site than in the Flint Hills.

The study did document that hens on the Meridian Way site were displaced by the turbine-tower complexes. Post-construction reaction to turbines by hens was measured for only three years; regardless, minor population declines were detected. An extension of the data collection period may have revealed significant population declines masked or delayed by site fidelity, the life span of existing prairie-chicken, and the influence of surrounding habitat fragmentation on nest site selection.

The study’s previously selected replicate sites ultimately were not developed for wind energy and, thus, were not available for comparing data to results from the Meridian Way site. Pre-construction data collection at the Meridian Way site was rigorous and extensive; but questions remain and additional data is needed to reconcile conflicting information regarding impacts of development on lesser prairie-chicken and sage-grouse. Extrapolating Meridian Way outcomes to other settings and geographies may facilitate wind energy development that is unnecessarily deleterious to wildlife.

Wind energy development in ecologically intact grasslands is simply not necessary. In areas of Kansas where wind energy development is considered economically feasible (based on wind resources and proximity to transmission lines), only 29 percent has been identified as unmitigatable habitat, or areas where development should not take place; 52 percent as areas requiring varying levels of mitigation; and 19 percent as areas where mitigation of wind energy development would not be necessary9. Within the areas of minimal anticipated ecological impacts, where wind energy mitigation would not be necessary, up to 125 gigawatts (6.6 million acres) of commercial wind energy production could be built, 17 times greater than the amount needed to meet DOE’s goal for Kansas9. This illustrates the potential to aggressively develop wind energy in the state without compromising intact native habitats.

Literature Referenced:

1) Sandercock, B.K., S.M. Wisely, L.B. McNew, A.J. Gregory, L.M. Hunt. 2012. Effects of wind power development on the population biology of greater prairie-chickens in Kansas. Unpublished report to the NWCC Grassland Community Collaborative Oversight Committee.

2) Pruett, C.L., M.A. Patten, and D.H. Wolfe. 2009a. It’s not easy being green: wind energy and a declining grassland bird. BioScience 59:257–262.

3) Pruett, C.L., M.A. Patten, and D.H. Wolfe. 2009b. Avoidance behavior by prairie grouse: Implications for Development of Wind Energy. Conservation Biology 23:1253–1259.

4) Robel, R.J., J.A. Harrington Jr., C.A. Hagen, J.C. Pitman, and R.R. Reker. 2004. Effect of energy development and human activity on the use of sand sagebrush habitat by lesser prairie-chickens in southwestern Kansas. Transactions of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference 69:251–266.

5) Pitman, J.C., C.A. Hagen, R.J. Robel, T.M. Loughin, and R.D. Applegate.2005. Location and success of lesser prairie-chicken nests in relation to vegetation and human disturbance. Journal of Wildlife Management 69:1259–1269.

6) Naugle, D.E., K.E. Doherty, B.L. Walker, M.J. Holloran, and H.E. Copeland. 2009. Energy development and greater sage-grouse. Section V: Conservation and management: Chapter 21. In: Marti, C. D. ed. Ecology and conservation of greater sage-grouse: A landscape species and its habitats. A release of a scientific monograph with permission of the authors, the Cooper Ornithological Society, and the University of California Press. Edited by Studies in Avian Biology, Boise, Idaho.

7) Johnson, G.D., W. Erickson and E. Young. 2009. Greater prairie-chicken lek surveys, Elk River Wind Farm, Butler County, Kansas. Unpublished report prepared for Iberdrola Renewables by WEST, Inc., Cheyenne, WY.

8) Johnson, G.D., E. Young, and J. Roppe.2012. Greater prairie-chicken response to wind energy development in southeast Kansas. Poster prepared for Iberdrola Renewables by WEST, Inc., Cheyenne, WY. (

9) Obermeyer B, Manes R, Kiesecker J, Fargione J, Sochi K (2011) Development by Design: Mitigating Wind Development’s Impacts on Wildlife in Kansas. PLoS ONE 6(10): e26698. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026698.

8TH Annual Darrell Brown Memorial Youth Upland Hunt

Each hunter will have the opportunity to harvest at least four birds during this free hunt

The Smoky Hill Pheasants Forever (PF) chapter, in cooperation with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, Pheasant Run Control Shooting Area, and the Hunting Heritage Group, Inc. will host its 8th annual youth upland hunt in memory of former PF volunteer, Darrell Brown. The hunt will be held Oct. 26 at the Hays City Sportsman Club and is open to youth age 12 through 18.

Hunters will learn about training and hunting with dogs, field safety and gun handling, how to clean and prepare birds, as well as what type of habitat to look for when hunting upland birds. Hunters will then have the opportunity to hunt with mentors and provided dogs.

This special hunt is being offered as part of the Kansas Hunter Recruitment and Retention Program, “Pass It On,” so the event is free.

For more information, or to register for the hunt, contact Shayne Wilson at (785) 628-1415 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Fall/winter Special Hunt Applications Deadline Sept. 30

Eligible hunters can choose from nearly 640 special hunts during this second drawing

Hunters have until Monday, Sept. 30, 2013 at 9 a.m. to apply for the 2013 fall/winter special hunts drawing. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s (KDWPT) Special Hunts Program offers hunters the opportunity to hunt areas with little to no traffic, often making it an ideal setting for first time or novice hunters. This year, 641 special hunts and over 1,000 permits are available for draw.

2013 fall/winter special hunts will take place in November through January. Applications will be accepted through Sept. 30 at 9 a.m., with drawing results published on the special hunts webpage at ksoutdoors.comapproximately five days after the drawing has closed. Special hunts are conducted on both public and private land, with some hunts located on KDWPT-managed lands, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-managed lands and several on Walk-In Hunting Area properties.

Hunters can apply for a hunt in one of three categories: open, youth, and mentor. Open hunts are available to all hunters. Youth hunts require parties to include at least one youth 15 or younger who must be accompanied by an adult 18 or older. Some youth hunts may have more specific age requirements, and adults may not hunt.Mentor hunts are open to both youth and/or inexperienced hunters who are supervised by a licensed adult 18 or older (mentor). A mentor is a licensed hunter 18 years or older who supervises and/or participates in a hunt restricted to youth or novice hunters. Some hunts require the supervising adult to be 21 years or older.

Hunter Education is not required for youth 15 and younger accompanied by an adult 18 or older. However, persons 16 and older who do not have hunter education may purchase a one-time-deferral apprentice hunting license, which exempts them from the hunter education requirement through the calendar year in which it is purchased. All hunters 16 and older need a valid Kansas hunting license.

For more information, visit and click “Hunting/Special Hunts,” or contact program coordinator Mike Nyhoff at (785) 628-8614 or by e-mail at [email protected] 

Wildlife Checkpoint Planned in Central Kansas

Joint effort will check drivers’ licenses and possession of wildlife

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT), Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) and local law enforcement personnel will conduct a joint checkpoint in central Kansas in early October. The fall turkey season starts October 1 and the regular big duck season starts October 5. The checkpoint is intended to help enforce state and federal wildlife laws, as well as the state’s driver’s licensing laws.

            Local law enforcement officers will operate the first stage of the checkpoint to be sure drivers are properly licensed to be driving. If a driver does not have a valid license, appropriate enforcement actions will be taken. Travelers should not expect major delays from this portion of the checkpoint. 

            Occupants of vehicles in the first check lane will be asked if they are hunters or are transporting wildlife. If yes in either case, drivers will be directed to a nearby KDWPT check lane where natural resource officers will check for required licenses and permits, count the game and gather biological, harvest, and hunter success information. This portion of the checkpoint should also cause minimal delay.

            Additional wildlife checkpoints will occur around the state during the fall and winter hunting seasons.

            For more information, contact KDWPT natural resource officer Matt Stucker at (620) 770-9330, or by email at [email protected]

Field & Stream "Heroes of Conservation"

The 2013  winner of Field & Stream’s “Heroes of Conservation” award is Steve Sams from Prescott, Arizona. 
       He is a retired U.S. Forest Service staff officer. Sams is a charter member of the Hunting and Angling Heritage Work Group, a collaboration of more than 30 sportsmen’s groups working to break down competitive barriers and pool resources.

“The Hunting and Angling Heritage Work Group resulted from trying to plan our first camp, and in our meetings everyone turns his hat backward to create more opportunities for new sportsmen. We now encompass 38 organizations putting on 35 events a year, and it is amazing to see our reach continue to grow. Collectively, we get more people hooked on the outdoors and benefit more wildlife. Why compete for the same resources? What we do works better.”

To read more about Steve and the other outstanding finalists for this year visit the Field & Stream “Heroes of Conservation” site at

The Bugs of Summer

Elby Adamson

Clay Center

As summer draws to a close, those of us who appreciate nature wonder about the bugs that came with the season and will soon disappear. Sure some bugs, ticks, mosquitoes and others can appear much earlier during the spring months, but certain bugs belong to the summer.

Of these, the cicada provides many people with evening music because of its singing. My wife rolls down the car windows on summer evenings as we travel through wooded areas so she can “hear the locusts sing.”

            The cicadas aren’t actually singing. Male cicadas make the most well known sound as they use their tymbals (abdominal muscles in the mostly hollow abdomen) like tiny drums. They flex the tymbals rapidly and produce what can be, when they are gathered in large numbers, almost deafening sound. Females also produce sound by using their wings but it is not as loud or singular as what the males do.


Cicadas aren’t really locusts, but many people call them locusts. I remember as a child picking the split, dried shells of locusts off of trees and wondering if the strange insects that had emerged from them would bite.

            Of course locusts or cicadas are harmless except for the possible damage the larva do to certain tree and plant roots. I am reminded, however, that about a week ago, I received a swat from one as I was traveling down the highway with my window open and got hit by a locust on the left side of my face. It stung for a bit and the locust was knocked dead. They are big enough that at 50 miles per hour they hit with a bit of force.

            Among other summer “bugs” are some unpleasant ones such as robber flies.

                                     Robberfly on Prey,

            Frankly, the robber flies have a rather ugly appearance that reflects their personality. They feed on a variety of other insects including in some cases dragonflies, grasshoppers, bees, ants, damselflies and some wasps. They inject their prey with a neurotoxin that paralyzes it and then a chemical that dissolves tissues. The robber flies digest their prey by sucking the liquefied tissues out. A robber fly drew my attention when someone brought a picture of an insect by my office and asked me to identify it. Thankfully, she had smashed it right after taking its picture.   

            Robert Bauernfeind, extension entomologist at Kansas State University gave me a quick answer. – “A robber fly (Family: Asilidae). Fun insects to watch. They capture quite large prey.  Insert their long pointed piercing mouthpart to suck the juices from the bodies of their prey. That same mouthpart will give a person a painful jab if he/she carelessly handles a robber fly. Lesson learned real quickly!”

I regard Bauernfeind as a Kansas treasure when it comes to helping identify insects.

He also reassured me that an identification I’d made of a bluet damselfly was correct and he told me there are supposed to be 12 species of bluets in Kansas and that a bluet I’d photographed while on a grasslands tour was probably a female ‘as males (I think) tend to be “all blue” whereas females are not necessarily so —– lighter in color or tannish abdomen.’

                                           Damselfly, Photo by Elby Adamson

            He also confirmed that an alleged Asian Long-horn beetle photographed by a local citizen concerned about neighborhood trees, an insect that I identified as a Cottonwood Borer, was indeed just what I said.

              Cottonwood Borer, Charles T. Bryson, USDA Agricultural Research Service,

The past week has been the week of the dragonfly with enormous numbers of dragonflies filling the air on the bluffs along the river here in North Central Kansas. I was actually glad to see them in enormous numbers, as it would mean they would feed on the mosquitoes that had arrived after the rains a few weeks ago. Dragonflies have beauty and delicacy that is wonderful to behold.

            So while there are summer bugs that are nasty like mosquitoes, others as wonderful and welcome as summer itself.

Youth Waterfowl Season just around the Corner

Youth waterfowl seasons offer hunters age 15 and under a noncompetitive hunting environment

There’s nothing quite like the sights and sounds of a waking marsh first thing in the morning. Crawling out of bed before dawn may be an unappealing concept for some youth, but waterfowl hunting is more than worth the sacrifice when done right. With milder temperatures and youth waterfowl season just around the corner, it’s the perfect opportunity to introduce young hunters to the world of hunting ducks.

The 2013 youth waterfowl season will kick off with the High Plains and Low Plains Early zones, Sept. 28-29, followed by the Low Plains Late Zone, Oct. 19-20, and the Southeast Zone, Oct. 26-27.

Daily bag limits are the same as those of the regular duck season and may consist of six ducks including no more than 5 mallards, of which only 2 may be hens; 3 wood ducks; 3 scaup; 2 pintails; 2 redheads; and 2 canvasbacks. Possession limit is three times the daily bag limit.

For a detailed map of duck zone boundaries and other waterfowl hunting regulations, consult the 2013 Kansas Hunting and Furharvesting Regulations Summary available at all KDWPT regional offices, most license vendors, and online at

In an effort to get more youth involved with hunting, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) hosts free youth hunting events, and one such event will be a youth duck hunt at the Milford Wildlife Area, Sunday, Oct. 19. Youth ages 10-15 are invited to participate. There is no cost to attend and ammunition will be provided. Other hunting equipment will also be available for use on a first-come, first-served basis.

Hunters must register no later than Oct. 14, 2013. Space is limited, so early registration is encouraged. Hunters will meet at the Milford Wildlife Area office, 

1782 10th Road

Clay Center, just prior to the hunt. Breakfast will be provided.

For more information on this event, or to register, contact public land manager Kristin Kloft at (785) 461-5402.

Mountain Men to Rendezvous at Fall River State Park

Park visitors will step back in time at this living history event

On Sept. 28, Fall River State Park will host the 11th Annual Fall River Rendezvous. The event celebrates our rich hunting and trapping heritage by recreating the annual rendezvous that occurred in the early 1800s when trappers and Native Americans camped together to trade with fur companies. Visitors will see mountain men and American Indian encampments, blackpowder and archery shooting demonstrations, tomahawk and skillet throws, living history presentations, flint knapping, blacksmiths, and much more. Youngsters will love the gold rush and candy canon.

Traders and artisans will ply their crafts, sell historical goods, and conduct demonstrations throughout the day. Lunch will be available at Popo Annies Historical Eatery. Contests for the whole family will make the day even more exciting.

The event coincides with National Public Lands Day and Free Park Entrance Day at Fall River, so no daily vehicle permit is required. (Camping permits are still required.) The rendezvous is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Fredonia Bay Area.

Enjoy the day learning about the 1800 to 1840 time period in American history in this scenic state park on the shores of Fall River Reservoir in Greenwood County. For more information, phone (620) 637-2213 or email[email protected].

Tree Time: A Kids’ Guide to Tree Facts and Fun

By Lindsay Legendre

Wildlife Promise

“I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree,” wrote poet Joyce Kilmer. In addition to their beauty, trees are regal and leafy friends that play an important role in our environment and serve all kinds of useful purposes. March 18-24, 2013 was National Wildlife Week ( and we celebrated trees!

Did You Know?

• Trees provide a comfortable home for all sorts of animals and birds

• Trees offer us shade and protection from the elements

• Trees give us fruit and nuts to eat

• Trees are natural monkey bars for kids to climb on

• Trees help keep our air safe and clean

Now that you know a little more about trees, here are some Activi-trees to do in your own backyard or local park!|MTActBot

House leader says farm bill probably will pass

Measure could be last farm bill Congress ever writes

by Peter Harriman

Argus Leaser

There’s a chance Congress could pass a new farm bill by the end of September, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas said here Friday.

If it passes, it probably will require farmers who want to buy federal crop insurance to be in compliance with conservation program requirements, he said.

And it might be the last farm bill of its kind Congress ever tries to write, Rep. Kristi Noem added. Comprehensive farm legislation that includes titles for crop subsidies, conservation programs, rural development and nutrition programs such as food stamps is so divisive in a highly partisan federal government that it might no longer be worth trying.

Noem and Lucas, an Oklahoma Republican, answered questions for an audience of about 70 Friday at the South Dakota State Fair.

Predictably, government gridlock was in for harsh criticism. The pair spent most of an hour tying it to the frustrating effort to pass a new farm bill to replace the 2008 law that expired last September but lives on through a one-year extension and still sets federal agriculture policy.

The Senate has passed such a bill, and just before the August congressional recess it appointed members to a conference committee to reconcile its legislation with whatever the House passes, Lucas said.

The Senate version saves $7 billion, Lucas said.

But there’s a whole prairie horizon of difference between the Senate effort and a powerful Republican bloc in the House that is holding out for a bill that saves $40 billion, including $20 billion from nutrition programs, such as food stamps, according to Lucas.

After Labor Day, the chairman said he hopes the House will pass a new farm bill that does not include nutrition programs, so Congress will deal with those separately.

But he and Noem emphasized the challenge of passing or attempting to block legislation in a divided government. President Obama and House conservatives regularly are at odds, said Lucas, and the Senate lacks a functioning majority to break the deadlock.

            “In a stalemate, the president attempts to use bureaucracy to drive his agenda. It’s maddening. Folks in this country have to decide which way we should go,” Lucas said.

Ideally, in a partisan Congress, he said, he would like to see a stripped-down farm bill that offers a choice of safety net programs for farmers.

“You pick which one you want. We tie down the resources for five years, and get back to farming,” he said.

However, he acknowledged whatever Congress passes must be acceptable to President Obama. Toward that end, he said a reasonable goal for a new farm bill is a balance of cuts between subsidy and conservation programs.

“If we can come up with a policy we can live with, so if five years from now we can’t pass anything, we have a policy we can live with in years five and six and 10. Having something we defend in the long-term is a whole lot better than reinventing the wheel. Because, at some point, they might take the wheel away from you,” he said.

Former South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Secretary John Cooper, South Dakota Grasslands Coalition Chairman Jim Faulstich of Highmore and South Dakota Ducks Unlimited Chairman Jeff Heidelbauer of Custer pressed Lucas with their insistence crop insurance be tied to conservation compliance.

“From 1985 to 1996, we had compliance with all direct payment programs,” said Cooper. “Compliance was taken care of, and it was well done. The facilities, the process and the regulatory procedures are certainly there.”

Faulstich praised Noem for her efforts to encourage cattle producers and to safeguard native prairie. She talked briefly about her proposal that prairie broken for crop production be ineligible for subsidies for four years to discourage such conversion. She related her interest in saving grass to the high regard she holds for the 600 acres of unbroken prairie on her family ranch. “It’s extremely special to me,” she said.

“I’m proud to champion this bill and get it in the farm bill.”

Heidelbauer said taxpayers who fund crop insurance do not want to see it uncoupled from conservation compliance.

Lucas told Cooper there is a strong sentiment in Congress to allow the federal government to exert influence over the production decisions of farmers who take subsidies and crop insurance.

“That perspective is very strong. In the final farm bill, I suspect there will be conservation compliance,” Lucas said, and he told Heidelbauer, “I think you are going to be really quite pleased with what ultimately comes out of this.”