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Archive for Sunday, December 18, 2011

Kansas wildlife department purchasing 700 acres of mined land for public recreation

December 18, 2011

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— An area of the state that was once mined for its lead and zinc deposits to fuel industrial production more than a century ago is getting a new life and purpose.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is purchasing some 700 acres in southeast Kansas that will be used for public recreation. Funding comes through a federal program that seeks to clean up contaminants left by 150 years of mining and smelting.

Members of the State Finance Council approved purchasing the land at $640 per acre in the Neosho River basin in Cherokee, Crawford, Labette and Neosho counties. The funds were from settlements with the companies that were responsible for the mining through the National Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration program.

“You’re getting this for a nice price,” said Gov. Sam Brownback, chairman of the council.

Lance Hedges, public lands supervisor in southeastern Kansas for the Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Department, said the land includes prairie, wetlands and other bodies of water that will be used for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. It will be managed by existing state staff in the region.

Hedges said the purchase of the land also helps lakes downstream from the Neosho, including Grand Lake in Oklahoma, by controlling drainage and what eventually ends up in the channel.

“It’s projects like this that will help,” he said. “It meets a lot of our goals.”

The Mined Land Wildlife Area covers some 14,500 acres, predominantly in Cherokee County, located near the old mining town of West Mineral. There are more than 1,500 acres of water for fishing. The 200 bodies of water are up to 50 acres in size and are found near Cherokee, Columbus, Oswego, Pittsburg, Scammon and West Mineral.

Strip mining played itself out as a viable industry in the 1960s and 1970s, leaving behind vast stretches of land scarred by the digging and the harmful heavy metals exposed when the coal was removed.

Federal regulations required the land to be restored and the environmental hazards to be remediated, a process that is ongoing in Cherokee County, including the town of Treece along the Oklahoma border.

The area was developed for recreational opportunities after mining operations ceased in the region. Deep strip pits left by surface mining were stocked with a variety of fish, including bass, crappie and trout.

Leo Henning of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said the land being purchased didn’t have any contamination on it from mining operations and has been returned to its native vegetative state. Nine companies have been in settlement talks over mining contamination, with two companies reaching agreements. Money collected is used for rehabilitating it for natural and public use.

“This is the first property to come up with that action. The land is not contaminated,” Henning said.

He said the property was already under a restricted use easement, which reduced its value and enabled the state to purchase it at the low rate.

Comments

Antonym 2 years, 8 months ago

Gee, $640 an acre for highly contaminated land, what a bargain..........for the seller. Now the taxpayers will start forking out millions for remediation. Engineering companies will be lining up to bid on those contracts. Can you spell "change order"?

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Stuart Sweeney 2 years, 8 months ago

Agree! It should have been cleaned up first then we would know if it was a bargain or not! Thanks Sam what buddy did you releave of this responsibility?

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littlexav 2 years, 8 months ago

Seriously, guys - the article explicitly says these 700 acres aren't contaminated.

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xclusive85 2 years, 8 months ago

"Leo Henning of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said the land being purchased didn’t have any contamination on it from mining operations and has been returned to its native vegetative state."

“This is the first property to come up with that action. The land is not contaminated,” Henning said.

Did you bother reading the article?

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Joe Hyde 2 years, 8 months ago

I would call this land purchase by the state "good news", and I appreciate Gov. Brownback's involvement in helping make it happen.

Privately-owned land can -- repeat, can -- be of the highest quality in terms of wildlife habitat, but everything depends on the owner's commitment of resources and time to reach then maintain that goal. Whereas all the public access Wildlife & Parks-owned or leased/managed acreage I've ever seen is very good quality, and I never have to worry whether the agency is doing its utmost to develop the habitat's wildlife carrying capacity.

So like I said, to me this purchase is good news.

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kochmoney 2 years, 8 months ago

When they say it's a mix of prairie, wetlands, and other bodies of water, they mean that it looks like it was clawed by a giant bear. I'm not sure it would work for boating, hunting, or other activities without some serious modification.

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Bob_Keeshan 2 years, 8 months ago

Anybody know where the Governor's legislative director is from?

Legislative Director and former lobbyist Tim Shallenburger, that is. Where is he from again?

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Fossick 2 years, 8 months ago

Baxter Springs, about 100 miles south and east.

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jayhawklawrence 2 years, 8 months ago

I believe Tim Shallenburger was born and raised in Baxter Springs and got involved in banking and politics in that area. He is a hard right conservative and typically as we are seeing with a lot of these folks, he does not have a college degree.

In today's political climate, I believe we are forced to be suspicious whenever public money is being transferred to private companies and individuals. It is sad that we have to do this but that is the only way we can start to clean up our government and get better quality people into public service.

I am all in favor of improving our outdoor recreational experience in Kansas, but I think we need to know exactly who is benefiting and try to determine the real motivation behind the scenes.

Another issue is the fact that much of the fish caught in this state are probably not safe to eat.

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Bob_Keeshan 2 years, 8 months ago

I wonder what county Baxter Springs is in.

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kochmoney 2 years, 8 months ago

It's in Cherokee, and this is the very same strip-mined land he credits with launching his political career. No coincidences no surprises here.

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Fossick 2 years, 8 months ago

"In today's political climate, I believe we are forced to be suspicious whenever public money is being transferred to private companies and individuals."

Not just today's political climate. People should always, always, always suspect that people who seek power over them are seeking that power in order to use it.

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JJE007 2 years, 8 months ago

Don't drink the water. It's yellowed by greed and aggrandizement.

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rbwaa 2 years, 8 months ago

My question: who is selling this land?

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