"Obama's First Wildlife Refuge Depends on Conservation Easements"

"WICHITA -- Up to 1.1 million acres of prairie in the Flint Hills of Kansas could be protected under the first National Wildlife Refuge unit designated by the Obama administration.

To create the new protected area, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will establish a voluntary conservation easement program in eastern Kansas. The easements are binding legal agreements that prohibit subdivision and commercial development, but allow for continued agricultural uses such as livestock grazing and haying.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the creation of the Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area this morning at the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita.

'Thanks to the tireless efforts of private landowners, stakeholders, state agencies, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the tallgrass prairies of the Flint Hills will forever be protected as a crown jewel of America's Great Outdoors,' said Salazar.

'I am especially proud that the first new unit created under this administration conserves working lands and recognizes the vital role farmers and ranchers play as stewards of our nation's fish and wildlife resources,' Salazar said. 'The Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area will protect land, water, and wildlife while creating new opportunities for economic prosperity in the region.'"

Environment News Service had the story November 12, 2010.

Monday, November 15, 2010