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

H.R. 2369: 1991

In April 1991 the NPS completed its study, and Dan Glickman announced that he would introduce legislation authorizing the NPS to acquire the Z Bar. His office compiled a list of conservation and environmental groups that could "activate their memberships" to support legislation and began to line up people who would testify favorably at committee and public hearings. The Kansas Farm Bureau, the Kansas Livestock Association, and the Kansas Grassroots Association immediately announced that their opposition had not changed and would not change."[132]

Glickman's bill was in trouble before it was introduced. By late April, Glickman staffer Myrne Roe advised the congressman and the rest of the staff that the issue was "out of hand in Chase County. We may have every newspaper in the state and all environmental groups," she continued, "plus some eco devo folks for it, but it is not going to fly with the level of emotion of those against it primarily in that county." Based on incoming reports suggesting that the emotional pitch in Chase County could lead to violence, Roe suggested that the congressman "back off" for awhile, shore up support among the Kansas delegation, and let the media and environmental groups "put pressure on Chase to get with it." [133]

Congressman Glickman delayed introducing the bill until mid-May. In the meantime, it became clear that support from the Kansas delegation would not be unanimous. Reps. Jan Meyers [R] and Jim Slattery [D] who, along with Glickman, represented eastern Kansas districts, maintained their support. Rep. Dick Nichols [R], whose district included the proposed park area, remained undecided. Rep. Pat Roberts, whose district lay in western Kansas, had "strong reservations." Sen. Dole told the press that he did not have a position, a statement that was interpreted to mean Dole would not support the bill because Glickman had "upstaged the rest of the delegation" with his April announcement and because Glickman was then considering a bid for Dole's Senate seat in 1992. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum gave the press a non-committal statement expressing hope for an agreement that would satisfy both sides. [134] On May 16, 1991, Glickman finally introduced the prairie monument bill with only two other members of the Kansas delegation listed as co-sponsors: Jan Meyers and Jim Slattery. Nine other members of the House also signed on as co-sponsors.[135]

Hearings on H.R. 2369 were set for July 16 before the House Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands. Before Glickman went to the hearing to give his own opening statement, his staff presented him with a copy of testimony that Denis Galvin, Associate Director for Planning and Development of the NPS, would give opposing the bill, along with prepared arguments for him to use in response to Galvin's testimony. Opposition from the NPS was based on an assertion that the 11,000-acre ranch was "not large enough to ensure successful management" and that there had been no "determination of the degree of natural or cultural significance." [136]

The NPS's sudden shift altered the politics of the situation substantially, but the hearings went on as scheduled. Glickman tried to mitigate the damage as best he could by pointing out that the bill had been introduced because the NPS's own feasibility study concluded that the ranch was of "sufficient size and configuration to afford adequate resource protection and provide sites for visitor facilities with minimal intrusion of the landscape." The study furthermore stated explicitly that natural and cultural resources had been evaluated and were considered to be of "prime significance." For the record, Glickman let it be known that the feasibility study had been approved "by all levels of the NPS bureaucracy" and charged that this sudden and "total conversion of its position" was "one of the most unusual incidents to ever come out of the NPS." [137]

Originally, the subcommittee had planned only one hearing in Washington, D.C., but after the NPS came out in opposition to the bill, the subcommittee traveled to Emporia, Kansas, for a second hearing on August 23rd. Both hearings produced little new information and no new arguments, but they did allow opponents and proponents to restate their positions for the official record. Among those testifying in support of H.R. 2369 were Paul Pritchard, then-president of the National Parks and Conservation Association and chairman of the National Park Trust; Ron Klataske, West Central regional vice president of the National Audubon Society; attorney Lee Fowler representing the Flint Hills National Monument Committee, which drafted the bill; Dr. David Hartnett, associate professor of biology at Kansas State University; and Dr. Sid Stevenson, assistant professor of recreation and park management at Kansas State, who presented the results of a cost-benefit analysis he had recently completed showing the "benefit" to be 1.57 times greater than the "cost" based on several economic factors.[138]

Among those speaking in opposition were Congressman Dick Nichols, who stated that his constituents opposed the creation of a prairie national monument by a "2 to 1 margin"; Chuck Magathan and Jim Mayo of the Kansas Grassroots Association; Paul Fleener, director of public affairs, and Doyle D. Rahjes, president, Kansas Farm Bureau; Mike Beam for the Kansas Livestock Association; James E. Link for the National Cattlemen's Association; Melinda Barrett, national legislative representative for Kansas Agri-Women; and Dr. Scott Irwin, professor of science and environmental education at Emporia State University. [139]

Cutting through some of the emotionally charged rhetoric, on both sides, was Rep. Pat Roberts, who did not explicitly state that he was opposed to H.R. 2369, but did articulate clearly and concisely the heart of the opposition's message. Roberts noted that the Z Bar Ranch (and, by extension, other areas in the Flint Hills) was "attractive to both environmentalists and recreationalists because of the stewardship that had been provided by the previous and current owners." This was a point on which both sides had long agreed, even if grudgingly. If, then, the "caring of the Z Bar and (similar) surrounding lands has been a way of life for the local residents, farmers, and ranchers," Roberts wondered, "[w]hy should the government come in and threaten this delicate balance?" [140]

Reducing the controversy to "agriculture v. environment," as many people had done, masked complex values and attitudes that park proponents outside Chase County often did not understand, appreciate, or acknowledge. Flint Hills ranchers who opposed the monument did not assume, as did many conservationists, that the National Park Service would be a better steward. Nor could they accept the proposition that hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, no matter how much money they pumped into the local economy, would be more in harmony with the prairie ecology than the cattle that grazed the hills. Granted, organized opponents all too often engaged in inflammatory anti-government rhetoric. Nonetheless, as Roberts pointed out in his remarks to the subcommittee, ranchers who lived in Chase County were "justifiably fearful of 'outsiders' wanting to take this property and make changes that [would] dramatically change their land, their communities and eventually their lives and livelihoods." [141] Moreover, when park proponents and park planners talked about interpreting the cultural heritage of the Flint Hills, they implicitly thought in terms of Native Americans who were long gone and idealized images of nineteenth-century settlers who established ranches, farms, and small communities across the beautiful Flint Hills. The heritage envisioned for interpretive centers did not extend conceptually to the culture of their contentious descendants who placed high social and political values on private ownership of land.

Roberts closed his remarks by noting that "Kansans continue to wonder why the Z Bar was not simply purchased by the environmental groups fighting so hard for the federal government to purchase it."[142] This point was hard to refute in view of new developments. Early in July 1991 the Kansas Farm Bureau, the Kansas Grassroots Association, and an un-named individual approached Boatman's Bank about a private purchase of the Z Bar. Boatman's informed the group that the ranch was not on the market, and the prospective buyer was told to speak with Ron Klataske of the Audubon Society. Agricultural opponents of the prairie monument proposal were immediately suspicious that "someone" was "trying to control" the hearings in order "to assure a favorable outcome" for Glickman's bill.[143]

After the July 16 hearing, Klataske took immediate steps to avoid a "political standoff from evolving in the Kansas delegation." He spoke with Assistant Secretary?Fish and Wildlife and Parks Mike Hayden, a former governor of Kansas and a Republican, about Denis Galvin's statement of NPS opposition. Based on this discussion, Klataske relayed to Rep. Glickman as well as to Sens. Dole and Kassebaum that apparently whoever prepared the position statement "was not familiar with the 'New Area Feasibility Study' prepared by [NPS], was not familiar with the property, and evaluated the proposed monument on the wrong basis." He urged Glickman to continue working the bill in the House, and all of them to provide leadership in order to avoid "another thirty years of unresolved conflict." [144]

The Kansas delegation did get together for a meeting after the July 16 hearing, during which they agreed to keep discussing options, including private ownership or some sort of public-private partnership. [145] Meanwhile, Chase County commissioners voted 2-1 to study the feasibility of purchasing the Z Bar for a county park and dude ranch. It was not a serious bid, but the move kept local residents stirred up because the two commissioners voting in favor of the measure said they would support county condemnation of the property.[146] Assistant Secretary of Interior Mike Hayden curiously stood by NPS opposition and publicly "denied that partisan politics had any role in the decision." [147] Controversy dragged on in the media, but as Glickman's bill moved closer to a vote the momentum for passage gained strength. All the mainstream conservation organizations backed it as did a host of statewide organizations. In September the House Interior Committee approved the bill, and the House of Representatives passed it in October. [148]

At about this point, the legislative effort began to assume a life of its own. After thirty years, the momentum had finally shifted in favor of preserving a small portion of the Flint Hills prairie for public access. However, Sen. Dole was unwilling to support the proposal contained in Glickman's bill. Sen. Kassebaum was philosophically supportive of some plan to establish a park or preserve, but in November she announced that she, too, would not introduce legislation authorizing the NPS to purchase and manage the Z Bar Ranch. After weighing various options, Kassebaum had decided that she "would support the creation of a private foundation to purchase the Z Bar...." A few days later, she announced that she "would bring together the state's various conservation and agriculture groups on December 9 to discuss the creation of a private foundation...." [149]


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