It seems like a rare victory for common sense in what’s too often an “Alice in Wonderland” bureaucracy.
Prescribed burns of the tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills can skew air quality data in monitoring locations, and that specific data should not be used to impose more stringent, and costly, federal air-quality regulations. Seems reasonable, right?
And, for once, federal environmental regulators agree!
In what’s described as a rare event, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has granted the state’s request that the EPA not use four days’ reports from April 2011 in its calculations about air quality for certain areas in central and eastern Kansas, including Wichita, Topeka and Kansas City. Those calculations, part of a three-year average, can mandate changes in the formula for gasoline sold in an area, and also can dictate installation of expensive pollution control devices by area businesses and industries. A case in point already exists in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment worked with agricultural interests to develop a smoke management plan for the Flint Hills. It then petitioned the EPA to exclude the data from days when prescribed burns took place in the scenic grasslands, where Kansas ranchers burn off the prairie annually to kill trees and weeds. The fires also help improve the productivity of the pastures that serve to feed thousands of head of cattle. Nearly 2 million acres are burned each year, sources estimate.
The EPA acknowledged in a letter to the state that the situation deserved special consideration.
“The tallgrass prairie ecosystem in the Flint Hills region represents a unique ecosystem whose native plant and animal communities benefit from periodic fire, and that the factors that affect the management of fire and the effects of fire are also specific to the region,” the EPA wrote in announcing its decision.
Congratulations to the state and to Flint Hills ranchers for their work on this matter, and to the EPA for reaching a rational and logical decision.