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Archive for Sunday, June 25, 2006

Plant ecologist feels deep attachment to Kansas prairie he studies

June 25, 2006

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Plant ecologist and longtime Lawrence resident Kelly Kindscher has a long history studying prairie plants.

His ancestors homesteaded on the Nebraska prairie when they moved to the Great Plains.

He considers his job at the Kansas Biological Survey and teaching at Kansas University a perfect fit.

A group of artists, environmentalists, community activists and scholars based at the Lawrence Arts Center recently awarded Kindscher, a past president and founding member of the Kansas Land Trust, with the 2006 Imagination & Place Environmental Award for his efforts to educate the public on environmental issues.

What does your job entail as a researcher?

I'm involved in all sorts of research. I have very broad interests, and that's what makes work interesting to me, although there's definitely a plant theme through all of it. I do work on looking at plant communities such as wetlands, including the contract for doing the vegetation work on the current South Lawrence Trafficway mitigation, which was built years ago. I've done work out at Cheyenne Bottoms; I do a lot of work on prairies.

Why do you believe it is important to preserve prairies?

There are untold benefits to biological diversity. They enrich the soils. They provide habitat for species. They provide opportunities for recreational use. And there's something that, to me just deeper down, maybe it's almost a spiritual sense that we should provide habitat in places for all species. And to do that, you need to protect the remaining pieces of high-quality landscape, whether it's little prairie parcels in Douglas County or larger pieces of rangeland in central or western Kansas.

Kelly Kindscher,  associate scientist at Kansas Biological Survey, walks through Kansas University's prairie reserve north of Lawrence.  Kindscher recently won the Imagination & Place Award for his environmental efforts.

Kelly Kindscher, associate scientist at Kansas Biological Survey, walks through Kansas University's prairie reserve north of Lawrence. Kindscher recently won the Imagination & Place Award for his environmental efforts.

You have said that the proposed 32nd Street Route for the SLT - supported by all but one member of the Kansas congressional delegation - would create disproportionate consequences for Haskell Indian Nations University because of the Baker-Haskell Wetlands. Why would you support the alternate route south of the Wakarusa River?

The south river route hasn't been studied. The one on the map, if you look at the ones there, is kind of a touch-base-and-go type of thing. If we get to that place, I would hope they would open it up this time and pick a really good route and look at the current context, which would be: Development is happening, going to happen, south of the river - (U.S. Highway) 59 (expansion) is going to be built. But it's one of those things that has to sit back and wait, and I have avoided getting into the shouting match, which is what it has become quite a bit.

What is the most critical issue Lawrence faces?

The big story, of course, in Lawrence is growth and development, and that greatly impacts how land is used. I think that is the big story, which is the other side of land conservation, and I feel very fortunate to have been involved in ECO2. I have been on the board, and to recognize that we need to link those two somehow. That is, we are going to do more economic development, which we are, that we need to be protecting landscape, protecting open space, which we are. And to link those is a very significant move, I think.

Audio Clips
Kelly Kindscher

How would you assess work on planning issues?

I think we are turning this corner of thinking about not just protecting open space, but looking at local food production, looking at local recreation: Hiking trails, bicycling, biking - a whole series of things that to me will guarantee a high quality of life 50 to 100 years from now.

What is your favorite thing about living in Lawrence?

The diversity of food available in this community. One of the biggest changes for me from 1975 to present is the ability to eat local food and restaurant choices. Those go hand in hand. There's great food in downtown.

More about the agency

And then to know that people I know personally are taking produce, herbs, vegetables, to many of those restaurants. That's pretty exciting. I feel like I'm supporting the local economy in many ways.

What are your thoughts on winning the Imagination & Place Award?

There's a big part of me that doesn't like to be in the limelight. But I also see what the award means in general - that it's important to give voice, and I feel that I have one of the community voices for the environment. And with that, I feel it's important to speak for what I feel is a pretty sizable number of people that want to have these amenities: That delights in large trees and forests and prairie wildflowers and open space and gardens and local beauty and a pastoral landscape.

Comments

GOPConservative 8 years, 6 months ago

I'm glad to see Dr. Kindscher speak out in favor of the South of the River SLT.

That was the original route selected by the people more than 20 years ago. Were it not for the LJWorld, in collusion with local land speculators, who wanted to change the route, the SLT would have been finished years ago.

It has been the blind selfish greed of those who have been trying to force 31st Street and later 32nd Street routes down our throats that caused the delay.

The people of Lawrence need to get behind returning to the original SOR route and get the project finished.

People need to wake up and quit buying into the lie that those who support the original route have been responsible for the delay. The delay was caused by those who have been trying to change the route to 31st or 32nd Street all these years.

gr 8 years, 6 months ago

"I'm glad to see Dr. Kindscher speak out in favor of the South of the River SLT."

I'm not sure you could say that. He said, "The south river route hasn't been studied."

"That was the original route selected by the people more than 20 years ago. Were it not for the LJWorld, in collusion with local land speculators, who wanted to change the route, the SLT would have been finished years ago."

So, why did they build the west half ending where it did? Or was that after they changed it? Either way, someone intended for it to go through. It has been completed half way. It's time to complete the other half and not go wandering through the county. If city expansion requires a need in the future, a second beltway could be built.

johnadavies 8 years, 6 months ago

It's good to see Kelly being awarded for years of committment and vision. He, and people like Wes Jackson of the Land Institute, are voices of sanity that we have needed and will continue to need!

Dan Thalmann 8 years, 6 months ago

Congrats to Kelly for not just the award, but continuing to be one of Kansas' best ongoing voices for the prairie and our culture's sense of place.

GOPConservative 8 years, 6 months ago

gr-

Although Dr. Kindscher did not specifically say that he favored the south of the Wakarusa route, his statements indicated that he thought SOR made the most sense.

Given his live-long study of plant ecosystems in both wetlands and the plains, I imagine he's not too keen on seeing a super highway go right through the middle his laboratory.

As a professional, he cannot be political, but he is correct that this has been a 20-year "shouting match" between the SOR and 31/32 proponents.

Regarding your question about the bridge-to-nowhere, the SLT stopped there because there was no resolution between the 31/32 and SOR proponents. After all these years, the issue is still not resolved.

The SLT can go either direction from the bridge. It could go South of the Wakarusa as proposed through a democratic process more than 20 years ago, or it could go right through the middle of the wetlands as proposed by those who are "invested" in that route.

Either route would be about the same distance. Going South of the River would be faster for through traffic and communters because the speed limit could be higher.

By adding local traffic to what was supposed to be a "bypass," as would be the case with 32nd Street alignment, local traffic would be merged with trucks, buses and commuters who want to get around Lawrence, not go through it.

Dr. Kindscher's point, as I understand it, is that development is going to happen south of the Wakarusa. Preventing development was the main argument for the 31/32 proponents. It is now moot.

The City is even talking about putting a sewer plant over there. There is no longer any justification for the terrible 31/32 idea, which was rudely interjected into the long range plans by speculators.

The citizens who worked out that long range plan more than 20 years ago knew that SOR was the best route.

Those with limited imaginations, who make up for it with backroom shenanigans, have tried to change that plan and have wrongly blamed the delay on those who wanted to stick to the original plan.

So far, KDOT has been in collusion with the 31/32 speculators. KDOT says going SOR would be too expensive because of the need for two rather short bridges over the Wakarusa.

Yet, if KDOT had not gone along with the speculators in the first place and had stayed with the original plan, the SLT would have been completed years ago and the total cost would have been less than half what the 32nd Street route is now going to cost.

That's not even including all the lawyers, consultants and racism agitators that KDOT and the speculators have used to push 31/32 down our throats.

gr 8 years, 5 months ago

Are you telling me the original plans were for the road to come into Iowa street and then make a sharp bend to the south? Why didn't they gradually curve it to the south? That would seem like poor design to me and any stranger coming through.

"Given his live-long study of plant ecosystems in both wetlands and the plains, I imagine he's not too keen on seeing a super highway go right through the middle his laboratory."

I didn't know it was HIS laboratory. His main research involved prairies and I wouldn't doubt he studied riparian areas, too. So, no matter where the road goes, it's going to destroy ecosystems he studied. Why add more pollution problems to the river and destroy an ecosystem that has had little done for it, while a wetland (man-made - was a field) has plenty of protection in similar sites? The project would actually add MORE wetland area. Why would you want to give up a WIN-WIN situation (riparian and wetland) by not adding more wetlands?

"By adding local traffic to what was supposed to be a "bypass," as would be the case with 32nd Street alignment,"

So, you would suggest that completing the road would not be the plan to help the local traffic situation?

"have used to push 31/32 down our throats."

Be more specific and say "some" of our throats.

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