Conservation easements conserve Flint Hills vistas, wildlife

The Nature Conservancy of Kansas (TNC) has protected 3,285 acres of Flint Hills tallgrass native prairie with a conservation easement in Chase and Lyon counties. The landowners, Bill and Maggie Haw of Shawnee Mission, are firm believers in conservation easements, having previously donated to TNC easements on other land they own and manage in the Flint Hills. This recent easement brings their total land protection contribution to more than 17,000 acres, including 16 scenic miles of highway frontage along the Kansas Turnpike (I-35) and the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway (K-177).

Tallgrass prairie is the most altered major habitat type in North America in terms of acres lost. Yet, in Kansas, a significant swath of tallgrass prairie – the Flint Hills –remains intact. TNC views conservation easements as a golden opportunity to help landowners conserve this intact and fully functioning tallgrass prairie ecosystem.

A conservation easement is a legally recorded agreement between the granting landowner and a land trust. The agreement permanently restricts uses of the property that would damage its conservation values. Conservation easements do not interfere with traditional uses of the land, such as grazing and prescribed fire, but it may restrict incompatible activities, including many types of development. Public access is generally not required by a conservation easement, and, like all other easement provisions, it must be agreed to by the landowner. An eased property may be sold, transferred or inherited, and the easement conditions transfer to each subsequent landowner.

“By placing these acres under the protection of a conservation easement, the property’s ranching legacy, as well as its economic and ecological integrity, will endure,” said Brian Obermeyer, director of the TNC’s Flint Hills Initiative.

“Maggie and I are committed to the idea of preserving not only the pristine views but also the wonderful cattle culture of this area where generations of same-family cowboy caretakers have learned to operate the best yearling grazing operations in the world,” said Bill Haw. “It is the perfect convergence of an important food-producing activity that maintains the ecosystem, which developed with bison grazing over thousands of years. The Nature Conservancy is the perfect partner to recognize and enforce those two compatible goals for many generations to come.”

The recent Haw easement takes TNC over the 100,000-acres-preserved mark in Kansas.

For more information about The Nature Conservancy and conservation easements, contact Shelby Stacy at [email protected] or (785) 233-4400.