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View Diary: Hike On! A Buffalo Commons National Park in Kansas? (161 comments)

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  •  This Is My Area of Historical Expertise - (12+ / 0-)

    And - - no - - depopulation is at its most extreme not in the High Plains, but in the Central Plains. The High Plains never had a great number of towns or small farms. The Central Plains did. As agriculture has become increasingly industrialized and farms consolidated with larger and larger acreages, it is these Central Plains counties that have witness the greatest percentages of outmigration.

    In addition, energy development in the Williston Basin and in the Hugoton Field have helped to mitigate outmigration in western North Dakota and western Kansas.


    Please recall, that Kansas City is 450 miles from western Kansas. Kansas City exists in a separate ecological, economic, and cultural zone. (And actually, the Kansas City Star is published in Kansas City, Missouri.) The people who should have a significant say in this matter - perhaps the most significant - are those in western Kansas.

    One would hope that they would be supportive, but it bears remembering that Shenandoah National Park was created by evicting the poor mountain residents of the Blue Ridge. The history of the National Park Service and other parklands - such as Land Between the Lakes - is not very reassuring when it comes to dealing with local residents facing difficult economic times.

    •  Truthfully, I don't see the national park (7+ / 0-)

      idea happening any time very soon, even though it's a nice idea.  The KC Star editorial suggested that money from the Land & Water Conservation Fund be used to buy out farmers in the 2 counties over the next 15 years so as not to repeat the 1920s, so that problem is resolved.  However, there's still a host of other problems.  Among others:
      -- is the area depopulating because it can't support life, or is it all industrialized farms needing little human care?  
      -- buffalo bison have a tendency to roam.  
      -- Parks require acts of Congress, so nothing will happen unless there's both significant local support and a Congressperson willing to push it through.  

      I've never claimed to be a leader of the DK eco community

      by RLMiller on Tue Jan 05, 2010 at 06:21:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The area the Star (12+ / 0-)

      is suggesting for this Commons just shows how little they understand the region in western Kansas. I have been to Greeley County. It is one of the centers of dryland wheat farming on the plains. There is a state-run agricultural experimentation station there that focuses on dryland farming (farming without using irrigation). Annual precipitation there is about 18 inches, which is enough to farm certain crops if the land is fallowed and rotated properly, and the farmers there are experts at it. Putting the land in the county into a Buffalo Commons would do very little for groundwater conservation because most of the county is not located over the Ogallala.

      You would think the Kansas City Star editorial board has not heard of the Cimarron National Grassland, which occupies about a third of Morton County, Kansas in the southwest corner of the state, or the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, which is a native prairie that was never plowed under in the first place (a lot easier to keep a native prairie than to restore one). My first thought would be to expand the Cimarron National Grassland or expand the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, rather than trying to form a completely new grassland in a farming area. But hey, what do I know, I only live out here!

    •  Depopulation has nothing to do with Global (9+ / 0-)

      Warming in this case. I live in the Flint Hills (Manhattan, KS) and grew up on a farm in Eastern Nebraska. The reason there is still undisturbed prairie here is because the shallow porous bedrock drains away moisture so readily. When July comes everything not irrigated dries out and the irrigation can only keep up on the richer bottom land. Farmers couldn't make a go of it 100 years ago and they cannot today either. That is why the Flint hills were never developed agriculturally. The native plants have adapted with perennial deep rooted growth.

      As for fewer people living here now, that has been going on since rural out-migration started when tractors were invented. Eighty acres used to be so much that a large family was barely able to manage it. Now, if a farmer doesn't have at least a thousand acres of good farmland to till (approx. 30 inches of rain annually and decent soil), they won't make enough money to survive.

      This is rather personal to me because I can take you through a quick tour of my old haunts and show you field after field that used to have a farmstead, school or church on it.

      Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely - Lord Acton

      by Shishkabugs on Tue Jan 05, 2010 at 08:25:15 PM PST

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      •  I Know - (5+ / 0-)

        I worked in Pawnee City.
        Like so many other county seats, the stores on the square stand empty.
        The smaller communities in the county are barely hanging on.

        Which baffles me.
        I guess the combination of income and the allure of Omaha and K.C. were just too much.  But many of these communities had excellent schools, everything within walking distance, lovely city and county parks, low cost of living. Very environmentally sustainable. Human-scaled, too.

      •  PS - (3+ / 0-)

        I interviewed an old farmer in the 1990s who was the last person to use mules in the county. He said he would look out and see all his neighbors on tractors. They would wave at him like he was a crazy old coot. Eventually he gave in and bought a tractor.

        He told me then, "Of course, a tractor costs a lot more than a mule - so you have to farm more acres to afford it." Which is one of the core issues of depopulation.

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