Archive for Saturday, February 25, 2012

Wetlands manager honored by Kansas Wildlife Federation

Roger Boyd, manager of the Baker Wetlands south of Lawrence, was honored Saturday in Salina as the Kansas Conservationist of the Year by the Kansas Wildlife Federation.

Roger Boyd, manager of the Baker Wetlands south of Lawrence, was honored Saturday in Salina as the Kansas Conservationist of the Year by the Kansas Wildlife Federation.

February 25, 2012


Sitting at a table Friday morning, Roger Boyd concentrated on winding a small strip of paper to form a wheel for a model tractor.

At 64 years of age, Boyd wasn’t building an elaborate model as some retirement hobby. The tractor is part of a display of the future Baker Wetlands Visitor Center.

The center is to be built with money the Kansas Department of Transportation is providing for its intention for extending Kansas Highway 10 through a portion of the Baker Wetlands that Boyd has managed for the past 24 years.

Ground will break on the project in the fall of 2013, and it should be finished a year later, Boyd said.

“We’re assuming once we get the Visitor Center going, we’ll get 10,000 visitors a year,” he said. “Right now, we don’t really keep track, but it’s a couple of thousand a year.”

Getting recognition

If not yet ready for retirement, Boyd has reached a point that his work as a professor at Baker University and manager of the Baker Wetlands is being recognized. The latest award came Saturday in Salina, where Boyd was recognized as Kansas Conservationist of the Year at the Kansas Wildlife Federation’s annual awards banquet.

In presenting the award, the association cited Boyd’s work with the wetlands, his teaching career at Baker University and his recycling initiatives.

Boyd was nominated for the award by one of his heroes, Stan Roth, a longtime biology teacher at Lawrence High School. Like the others on his list — Wes Jackson, E. Raymond Hall and Roger Boyd’s father, Ivan Boyd — Roth worked to make a difference locally and in the state, Boyd said.

Boyd said Hall, the former director of the Kansas Natural History Museum, suggested in 1968 to his father, who was also a Baker biology professor and the first manager of the wetlands property, to accept land from the federal government that was to become the wetlands after KU passed on the opportunity.

“He jokingly told my dad, ‘Baker is used to doing something with nothing. Why don’t you guys try it?’” Boyd said. “My budget for several years was $500. I could spend it anyway I wanted.

“We became very good at getting donations and writing grants.”

Wetlands conversion

The property Baker received was cropland, which settlers first set about draining for agricultural use in the 1850s. The soil washed down the Wakarusa River valley was fertile, but the low-lying floodplain was always a challenge to farm because of the difficulty finding enough dry time to getting crops planted and harvested.

His father’s assumption was that Clinton Dam would control flooding, so he concentrated on converting the property to prairie, Boyd said.

That focus began to change after Boyd’s father died in 1982 and he became manager of the wetlands. He secured funding in 1990 from the federal government to remove the tiles that drained the property.

“We plugged up all the leaks,” Boyd said. “That’s what converted it back to wetlands.”

That and a lot of student “slave labor.”

“The buzzword now is ‘service learning,’” he said. “Students donated a lot of time here and at the (Ivan) Boyd Woods and Prairie.”

Environment education

Under Boyd’s direction, Baker University added a wildlife biology degree program, which to his regret has been phased out with his retirement from full-time teaching in 2005. During his career, he reached more Baker students with a human ecology course for nonscience majors.

“My approach was to tell them why the environment was important,” he said. “When you teach biology majors, they get it. I considered that my opportunity to share that message to humanity majors and business students, who sometimes think environment is a bad word.”

It was through his science students that Boyd started the recycling effort for the campus and Baldwin City, the Kansas Wildlife Federation cited in its announcement. Bins on campus collect 9 tons of paper, plastic, cardboard and some metals every month.

“I started a recycling program on campus in 1989,” he said. “It’s always been run by students. The Earth We Are Club is usually involved.

“Recycling has always been a personal passion. I worked with the city to get their recycling started at the train depot.”

The past two years Boyd has been leading the effort to add another 300 acres of wetlands to the site, half near future visitor center and half east of Haskell Avenue. The work has gone well as wetland seeds dormant in the ground sprouted with the introduction of the right conditions, he said.

“I was skeptical,” he said. “I thought this would take five to 10 years. But just in the first year we have already met all our goals.”

Although he isn’t thinking about retirement soon, Boyd sees that day coming.

“I’ll probably go until I’m 70 or so,” he said. “Dad taught until he was 78. I don’t think I’ll go that long, but I’ll probably greet people at the Visitors Center and give tours. I’m sure I’ll give tours.”


Joe Hyde 6 years, 2 months ago

Bordered to the north by the Kansas River and Lawrence Riverfront Park, to the south by the expanded Baker Wetlands, and to the west by Clinton Lake and all of its federal and state public access acreage, Lawrence has become the place to be if you're into viewing all manner of wildlife up close and personal.

Thank you, Dr. Boyd, for all the work you've done out south. I just hope never to drive off the road from being in the thrall of those waterfowl, songbirds and raptors one sees constantly. It's quite a place out there. Sort of a mini-Cheyenne Bottoms.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

Yes, but just think how much better they'll be once 10 lanes of pavement gets laid through them. (At least, that must be what Boyd believes.)

Mike Ford 6 years, 2 months ago

gee, if the ground for the center is to be broken in the fix on the court case already in? ah, Kansas.....where the fix was in on Shawnee lands before the Kansas Nebraska Act was passed in 1854....I won't say which race can always try and game the court system....the fact that so much land in Kansas isn't in Indian hands speak for itself. Someone gamed the system in the 1950's and 1960's when the Bureau of Indian Affairs was ran by White people who didn't ask the Indians whether or not they wanted said land. The acted paternalistic and awarded the lands to their White friends much the same way when contracts and lands of Indians were given out as patronage in the 1850's and 1860's by corrupt Indian agents and Kansas and National politicians. Anyone watch the AMC series "Hell on Wheels" ? pretty much the same circumstance in Kansas as was in Nebraska. Oh the arrogance of ignorance. I'm related by marriage to the one Marvin Schwilling....a naturalist who worked with the State of Kansas Parks and Wildlife Department for many years who trained Mr. Boyd and who was honored with a statue and bust at Cheyenne Bottoms. I wonder who would be on board with this wetlands travesty?

blindrabbit 6 years, 2 months ago

great job Roger Boyd and Baker U. When at Baker in the 1960's, I had his father Dr. Ivan for Biology Class. What an interesting and unique individual Dr. Boyd was!!!

IdahoWinds 6 years, 2 months ago

Congrats Dr. Boyd! I doubt you check out these blogs but in case you do - ignore Bozo and Tuschie...they have some sour grape issues, and that's being kind! If they had bothered to read the article they would have noticed that the award was for many things you have addition to your fortitude in standing up for whats best for the wetlands for 30 years. When all is done, there will always be a few who can not see past their own little microcosm to see what they can do to benefit the world and its creatures, other than man. As Dr. Boyd has always said - you're either part of the solution or part of the problem.
I think we know where that puts bozo and tuschie!

Keep rockin' on for the benefit of the Baker Wetlands.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

You forgot your main point and motivation--"Screw Haskell."

Ken Lassman 6 years, 2 months ago

I have serious misgivings about pretty much every solution that has been tossed out there for the trafficway--or lack of one. One thing that comes through loud and clear, tho, is that the habitat restoration that Roger has done has been heartily embraced by the wildlife, who know not one whit about the political maneuvering of mankind in the Wakarusa floodplain. In my conversations with Roger, he's made it clear that not knowing the future of what will happen to the SLT is no excuse for inaction, and he should be applauded for the real habitat that he has created for real wildlife leading real lives. It is something that everyone on both sides of the road issue should be proud of.

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