Efforts are moving forward to create a tallgrass prairie preserve in Kansas.
Congress moved a little closer this week toward the creation of a tallgrass prairie national preserve in Kansas' Flint Hills.
The Senate approved legislation introduced by Sens. Nancy Kassebaum and Bob Dole, both R-Kan., to create a tallgrass prairie national preserve on the Spring Hill Ranch in Chase County. The ranch, commonly known as the Z-Bar Ranch, is about 80 miles southwest of Lawrence.
The legislation to create it was included in a package of parks and public land bills that were bundled together and approved unanimously Wednesday night by the Senate.
"Senate passage of this bill is a tremendous step forward, and I am more optimistic than ever that this bill will be enacted into law this year," Kassebaum said in prepared remarks.
Her initiative would allow the National Park Service to acquire by donation up to 180 acres on the 10,894-acre Z-Bar Ranch.
The federal government would not be permitted to own more than 180 acres but would be allowed to enter into a cooperative agreement for resource management and other activities on the rest of the ranch, which is owned by the National Park Trust, a private conservation group.
Mike Horak, press secretary for Kassebaum, said the legislation now goes to a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences on the bill.
"We are optimistic that we can keep the Z-Bar legislation in this package and are hopeful that it will be passed by the House and the Senate," Horak said.
Horak said the bill will allow the federal government to acquire the historic ranch house, barn and a one-room school house on the property.
The bill enables the National Park Service to enter into a cooperative agreement with the National Park Trust "to provide interpretive and recreation activities," Horak said.
"Theoretically, the parks service could use part of that land for hiking trails that go off into the hills," he said.
He said Reps. Pat Roberts and Jan Meyers, both R-Kan., have been working on similar legislation in the House.
"The delegation feels that creation of this preserve will give us the opportunity to educate the nation on the importance and history of ranching in Kansas," Horak said.