A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. New River Gorge National River in West Virginia encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.
Big Southern Butte is one of two domes rising from a sea of basalt near the center of the eastern Snake River Plain in Idaho. The butte is one of the largest volcanic domes in the world, but at 300,000 years old it is also one of the youngest. Hikers who trek to the 7,550-foot high summit are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views. Photo by Devin Englestead, BLM Upper Snake Wildlife Biologist.
First light at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Established in November 22, 1939, the refuge has provided a critical stopover and wintering spot for thousands of sandhill cranes, geese and other waterfowl for 75 years. Bosque del Apache's sandhill crane population has multiplied from 18 birds in the 1840s to more than 20,000 birds today. Photo by Kim Hang Dessoliers (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Secretary Salazar Marks Establishment of Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area
Office of the Secretary
First New Refuge Unit Created Under Obama Administration
WICHITA, KS — Today, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar joined conservation leadership, elected officials and other partners to announce the creation of the more than 1 million-acre Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area (FHLCA), a new unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
The Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area is the product of efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, private landowners, and other agencies and partners to protect a unique and highly diverse area in eastern Kansas known as the Flint Hills Tallgrass Region.
“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 Secretary 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. The Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area will protect land, water, and wildlife while creating new opportunities for economic prosperity in the region.”
Today, less than 4 percent of the once-vast tallgrass prairie remains, of which nearly 80 percent lies within the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma. The purpose of the Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area is to help maintain the integrity of tallgrass prairie wildlife habitat, stream water quality, and the rich agricultural heritage of the Flint Hills by acquiring and protecting up to 1.1 million acres of habitat through voluntary, perpetual conservation easements. These conservation easements will protect habitat for more than 100 species of grassland birds and 500 plant species, and ensure the region's sustainable ranching culture - which directly supports conservation of the tallgrass prairie – will continue.
Service conservation easements are binding legal agreements that typically prohibit subdivision and commercial development activities, but allow for continued agricultural uses such as livestock grazing and haying. Under conservation easements, land ownership and property rights, including control of public access, remain with participating landowners. In addition, participating properties would remain on local tax rolls.
"The Flint Hills has a strong and rich history of preserving the ranching heritage and the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's conservation easement program would provide a voluntary opportunity to preserve this heritage for future generations," said Mike Collinge, a Flint Hills Rancher.
The project boundary includes almost 45,000 acres of existing conservation areas managed by The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ranchland Trust of Kansas, (an affiliate of the Kansas Livestock Association), and Kansas Land Trust.