WICHITA — The U.S. Secretary of the Interior announced this morning the implementation of a plan seeking to preserve more than a million acres of prairie in the Kansas Flint Hills.
Secretary Ken Salazar said that the program will purchase easements to save portions of the Tallgrass Prairie from development.
Under the program, ranchers and other property owners will maintain ownership and control of the property. But they will be paid 30 percent of market value not to develop the land for housing or to destroy the prairie.
"I can ranch it, and I can graze it, but what I can't do is plow it over or cover it up with asphalt or homes," said Bill Sproul, a rancher and member of the Tallgrass Legacy Alliance.
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The aim is to protect the habitat of remaining prairie lands. Only 4 percent of original prairie remains, mostly in Kansas and Oklahoma.
Salazar made the announcement this morning at the Great Plains Nature Center with other officials, including Kansas Gov.-elect Sam Brownback.
"We've got a treasure that we all want to see enjoyed, but before we can enjoy it we have to protect it," Brownback said. "We will protect it today."