Arbitrary move

Protecting the Kansas Flint Hills is important, but last week’s move to ban wind-farm development in an 11,000-square-mile area raises some questions.

May 18, 2011


Many business and civic leaders in south-central Kansas are understandably upset with the way Gov. Sam Brownback moved forward with a plan to more than double the area that will be off limits to further wind energy development.

Last week, Brownback announced that he had decided to set aside nearly 11,000 square miles of land in eastern Kansas to create what he called the “Tallgrass Heartland.” The area expands the region designated by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as the “Heart of the Flint Hills.” The entire area now will be free from further commercial wind farm development.

The press release making the announcement noted that plan was supported by a “broad-based coalition of Flint Hills ranchers, preservationists, wind developers, power companies and government officials.” Unfortunately, that coalition didn’t include officials in some Kansas communities who had been working for years to attract wind farm developments in their areas.

Officials in Cowley County said this week that BP Wind Energy was only a step away from starting construction on a wind farm in the northeast corner of the county. The site would have been in close proximity to the Elk River Wind Facility that went into operation in 2005 and the Caney River Wind Project that is under construction and expected to go on line in January. Now, Cowley County officials say, years of work have been wasted.

Even as they praised efforts to protect the native grassland of the Flint Hills, editorial writers at the Winfield Courier, published in the Cowley County seat, raised ethical questions about the deal Brownback struck with energy producers. The governor, they said, apparently “dickered with BP Wind Energy to drop its project” without consulting any officials, legislators or landowners from Cowley County. The editorial also questioned whether political favoritism was involved in the decision to allow the other wind farms in the area while pulling the plug on the Cowley County project.

In his statement, Brownback said his administration would continue to vigorously support wind power development in other parts of the state. Nonetheless, the decision to simply remove such a large part of the state from any consideration for such projects seems a bit arbitrary.

Protecting what remains of the tallgrass prairie that once covered a vast portion of our region is a good goal, but it seems there may have been some room for wind development compromise on a case-by-case basis. If all wind-power projects are to be banned in this area, it’s only fair that the state apply tough restrictions on all other business or industrial ventures that might harm the pristine prairie.

The Flint Hills often are mentioned as a prime attraction for Kansas tourism. That’s great, but it’s highly doubtful that tourism will provide an economic boom for this region great enough to offset what may be lost in terms of business and industrial development.


texburgh 6 years, 11 months ago

Might one remind the LJW that Sam was your boy during the elections. This is the second editorial suggesting his abuse of power is suspect. The Arts Commission firings and now this. It's just the beginning of his consolidation of power. Remember he also proposed doing away with the state board of education and the regents and putting all education control under him. Governor Brownshirt...

Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

Sam Brownback is following the same governing blueprint that Gov Scott Walker of Wisconsin is implementing.

According to Jim Hightower you'll find piles of right-wing money from the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, the Erik Prince(Blackwater Mercenary Army fame) family, and the Waltons of Wal-Mart supporting this racial neoconservative christian fundamentalist venture.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 11 months ago

You know what? I'd swear this very same post appeared on another thread today on this award-winning website. BTW, do you have "racial neoconservative christian fundamentalist" set as a macro so you don't have to type it out every time? BTWBTW, do you actually mean "radical" instead of "racial"?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

Brownback talk is cheap.

He has no clue. It takes money to create tourism and then hope enough tourists show up to make the investment pay back at least in Kansas. Too many tourists and their RV's can ruin a place like the Flint Hills.

Brownback is out trying justify cutting off wind power in spite of the fact Kansas is rated number 3 in the nation for wind power potential.

He likes subsidizing expensive and toxic sources such as Nuke and Coal = fiscally irresponsible.

Betty Bartholomew 6 years, 11 months ago

Wouldn't the hotels, motels, restaurants, shops, and other businesses required to support tourism in the area, not to mention the roads to get to them and their parking lots, do more harm to the grasslands than wind turbines? Yeah, the turbines are absolutely huge, but I'm pretty sure they take up less of a footprint than a Marriott, and they're spaced out in such a way as to be fairly unobtrusive in comparison.

jayhawxrok 6 years, 11 months ago

Brownback doesn't care about anything or anyone but Sam Brownback. He's all about his right wing nut agenda and moving on, if he has to gut Kansas to gain favor with the toothless tea party, he will. Every damn day he's in office, that's exactly what he'll do.

Mike Ford 6 years, 11 months ago

I've driven and photgraphed the Flint Hills from Council Grove to Cassoday and from Toronto to Howard to Elk Falls, Longton, and Sedan. The area is as pristine as it was when Kansas US Senator Samuel Pomeroy and the Lawrence, Leavenworth, and Galveston Railroad backers stole the lands from the Osage people in 1871. It sucks that there's not more backroad access to rural scenes due to the xenophobic populace who fought tooth and nail when the Z Bar Ranch area was made a federal preserve towards Council Grove.

I've also driven on old route 66 along I-40 between Clinton and Texhoma, Oklahoma, where there is a sizable wind farm on the south side of the roads. Hypocracy is irrelevent when the intelligence of said constituency is non existant.

woodscolt 6 years, 11 months ago

coal plant, global warming , mercury poisoning, murdered miners, mountaintop removal, yes. Sustainable clean and green energy, no. hypocrisy, yes. Intelligence, no. fossil fuels pay my campaign bills, yes. wind energy, no.

brownbacken all the way to the bottom of the earth.

Centerville 6 years, 11 months ago

He's doing those landowners a big favor. They won't have to face the day when the towers and turbines are kaput and the fabulous 'green' power company won't pay to have them or their huge underground concrete anchors removed.

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