online book
Book Cover to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
Cover Page


Table of Contents


A Grassland
Preservation Ethic

The Pottawatomie County Park

Reconsidering the
Flint Hills Options

Kansas Flint Hills
v. Cherokee Strip

Kansans Divide:
The Winn Bills

The Osage Prairie
National Preserve

The Spring Hill
Z Bar Ranch

H.R. 2369

The "Kassebaum Commission"



Note on Sources


Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Legislative History, 1920-1996

Reconsidering the Kansas-Oklahoma Flint Hills Options: 1963-1970 Interlude

No new federal legislation was introduced during the remainder of the 1960s, but public interest continued and the prairie park idea remained a focus of study and discussion at the state level as well as within the NPS. In 1965, the NPS proposed a Prairie-Great Plains Tourway stretching 1400 miles north from Oklahoma to the North Dakota-Montana border. This proposal appears to have evolved from a number of sources: the 1962 report of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, the Great River Road program along the Mississippi River, and legislation passed by the 88th Congress authorizing the Lewis and Clark Tourway. The Prairie-Great Plains Tourway concept included three "national parkway" segments that were considered to be of greater national significance and would be treated similarly to the Blue Ridge and Natchez Trace Parkways. Proposed as parkway segments were a 145-mile Great Prairie Parkway through the Flint Hills from Pawhuska, Oklahoma to Council Grove, Kansas; a 100-mile Sandhills National Parkway through central northern Nebraska; and a Sioux-Badlands National Parkway in South Dakota.[28]

Another NPS study reconsidered the remaining three options that had been presented in the 1960 Reevaluation Study: sites designated as Chase County, Kansas; Elk County, Kansas; and Osage County, Oklahoma. This study, requested by the National Parks Subcommittee of the Senate Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, led to a 1965 report, The Living Prairie, which compared several aesthetic and land-management factors and then ranked the three areas in terms of desirability. The Oklahoma site, which extended into Chautauqua County, Kansas, was ranked highest. The Chase County and Elk County areas were ranked second and third respectively. All three sites, however, occurred along the proposed Prairie-Great Plains Tourway Route. The Living Prairie report also noted that Dr. Raymond Hall of the University of Kansas had been contacting philanthropic sources seeking support for land acquisition. No potential benefactors were named, but the idea of working with private entities to acquire land and then slowly phase out livestock use through regulated grazing leases was clearly under discussion. [29] These studies helped to sustain interest in a prairie national park, but without political leadership the movement really was at a standstill. The only result was the marking of a north-south highway route through Kansas as the "Prairie Parkway."[30]

Walter Hickel, during his brief tenure as Secretary of the Interior (1969-1970) in the Nixon administration, signaled that he would support a new legislative effort. At a 1969 Republican fund- raising dinner in Salina, Hickel, a Kansas native, announced that he "encouraged... another bid for the creation of a prairie national park."[31] Several statewide groups now added their support to that of the Prairie National Park Natural History Association. Later that year, the Kansas Wildlife Federation, the Kansas Recreation and Park Association, and the Kansas State Teachers Association all passed resolutions urging the creation of a park in Kansas.[32]

The following year, after the Kansas legislature rejected a bill to establish a seven-member governor's commission to "work for the establishment of a Prairie National Park," Governor Robert Docking took the initiative and appointed a fifteen-member Governor's Prairie National Park Advisory Committee.[33] Bill Colvin of the Manhattan Mercury was named chair, and the governor's advisory committee immediately initiated discussions with members of the Kansas congressional delegation. Senators James Pearson [R] and Robert Dole [R] and Representatives Chester Mize [R] and Joe Skubitz [R] reportedly expressed initial interest. The advisory committee also contacted the NPS to discuss possible locations. Pottawatomie County was not among them, but Colvin made it clear that the committee was only considering areas in the eastern tallgrass region of the state.[34] A December 4, 1970 meeting of the committee confirmed this focus. Discussion centered on the recent passage of P.L. 91-462, which directed the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a feasibility study of lands in Oklahoma and Kansas historically associated with Euro-American settlement in the Cherokee Strip. Rep. Skubitz, whose district included the Kansas portion of the feasibility study, introduced the bill that became P.L. 91-462, which carried a $30,000 appropriation. However, the governor's advisory committee did not support Skubitz's bill. Instead, the committee voted to hold a joint meeting with the Kansas congressional delegation and ask for the introduction of legislation to create a prairie park entirely in Kansas. The committee purposely avoided recommending specific locations and size, hoping to avert renewed opposition. [35]


Last Modified: Sun, October 28, 2001 5:00 pm PDT
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