Topeka — A state Senate committee Thursday considered a resolution aimed at exempting grass burning in the Flint Hills from federal environmental retrictions.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 1623 urges Congress to exempt the Flint Hills from a smoke management plan mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Ranchers support the resolution, but environmentalists don’t. In past years, the Kansas City and Wichita areas have run afoul of air pollution limits because of smoke drifting from the massive burning.
In a hearing Thursday, supporters of the resolution said the annual springtime burning of approximately 2 million acres improves grasses that cattle feed on, which in turn improves the market value of the cattle.
They also said it preserves the tallgrass prairie by destroying invasive species of plants and trees.
But the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club opposes the resolution, calling it an irresponsible response to “legitimate health and environmental concerns.”
The Sierra Club said it doesn’t oppose burning, but that it should be more controlled and less frequent.
Ranchers, however, say weather and soil conditions dicate when the burning is most effective.
The measure was heard by the Senate Natural Resources Committee, which plans to work on the bill next week.