Topeka Buried in the numerous items under discussion by House and Senate budget writers is a proposal by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to purchase 824 acres of land in Jefferson County.
The plan is to make it a wildlife area that would allow hunting and hiking.
"It will provide hunting opportunities in the part of the state where we really need hunting opportunities," said Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Secretary Robin Jennison.
The land is in southern Jefferson County, east of Perry and comprises three parcels. Lance Burr, an attorney; Dr. Roger Johnson, of Jefferson County; and Howard Dodge Engleman, a physician in San Antonio, own separate pieces of the property. The appraised value of the land is $1.2 million, according to Chad Deppenschmidt, land acquisitions manager for KDWPT.
Under the proposal, the money to buy the land would come from Pittman-Roberston funds, which is a tax built into the cost of hunting and fishing equipment that is collected by the federal government and then distributed to the states.
Deppenschmidt said the state would purchase the land over several years.
Jennison said it would be a good area for quail, turkey and deer hunting.
The owners have already protected the land from development by obtaining conservation easements with the Kansas Land Trust. Conservation easements restrict future uses of the land in perpetuity.
Jerry Jost, director of land protection for the Kansas Land Trust, said the property features a mixture of uplands and wooded areas, rock outcrops, replanted prairie and hardwood trees.
The protective easements run along Buck Creek. "The real value is Buck Creek," Jost said.
Johnson, one of the three property owners, said there remains a lot of ground to cover before the proposal can be finalized. But he said he is hopeful a deal can be reached with the state.
Because of the size of the property, Jennison said he needs the Legislature's approval to go forward. And the agency would have to receive approval to use the Pittman-Robertson funds too.
The Kansas Legislature reconvenes May 8 to consider the state appropriations bill. House and Senate budget-writers will meet shortly before that to prepare for the final push.