An agreement announced last week is a promising bit of news for the proposed tallgrass prairie preserve in Chase County.
True to her word that she would support private development of a prairie park on the Z-Bar Ranch near Strong City, Sen. Nancy Kassebaum has put together an agreement that would bring various parties together in a private foundation. The purpose of the foundation is to raise enough funds to purchase the ranch and set up the new park, which was turned down earlier this year by Congress.
Some of the primary opposition to the park proposal came from agriculture and livestock groups that feared government ownership of Z-Bar Ranch eventually would lead to the government using its powers of eminent domain to encroach on surrounding ranch land. The beauty of Kassebaum's foundation is that it brings together ranchers and preservationists. The agreement announced last week was approved not only by the National Audubon Society, the Flint Hills Monument Committee and the Nature Conservancy, but by the Kansas Livestock Assn. and the Kansas Farm Bureau.
The 12-member board will be appointed by the Kansas senators and members of Congress, the governor and governmental bodies in Chase County. It also will include non-voting representatives of the National Park Service and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
It was a great disappointment to park supporters to see the proposal to purchase and preserve Z-Bar Ranch turned back in Congress. Kassebaum's efforts, however, appear to have breathed new life into the project. Preservation of Z-Bar could provide an important link to the state's past as well as being an asset to future Kansas tourism. The coalition forged by Kassebaum should be urged to actively pursue the prairie park plan.