Views from the top

Few who experience the Kansas outdoors can name the leaders of the legislature's two committees that deal with natural resources.

Yet when it comes to the Kansas outdoors, those chairmen are influential.

Controllers of what bills will or won't be heard in their natural resources committees, they can be the beginning or the end of bills that relate to wildlife or outdoors recreation.


Rep. Larry Powell, R-Garden City, is a lifelong rancher.

Powell, 71, has been chairman of the agriculture and natural resources committee for three years. His involvement in the outdoors goes back almost as far as his involvement in agriculture.

"I remember buying my first shotgun for $12 at Montgomery Ward and going duck hunting in the morning before school started," he said. "I've enjoyed hunting all of my life but I don't go much anymore."

Last fall, Powell guided bird hunters on a hunt he donated to raise funds for Special Olympics.

One of his major concerns is Kansas' deer herd.

"I do know we kill a lot deer with cars," he said. "But it seems everybody wants to shoot just a trophy deer. I'm not sure what the answer is."

Powell is in favor of over-the-counter out-of-state deer permits so landowners can host anyone who shows up during the season.

"Why do we need to apply in the (springtime) if we're supposed to have plenty of permits to meet the demand?" he said.

Despite Kansas ranking last in the nation when it comes to the percentage of land that's open to the public, Powell opposes the addition of public lands.

"I don't know why the government needs to own ground. They can't take care of things they're supposed to take care of already," Powell said. "I don't think it's the function of the government to provide recreation for everybody when private lands can do the same things."

To contact Powell, call 785-296-7694 or e-mail larry.powell@house.ks.gov.


Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R- Grinnell, will be serving his first year as chairman of the senate's natural resources committee.

He served as vice-chair under Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, in past years. McGinn is now the committee's vice-chairman.

Ostmeyer, 67, has been a farmer or rancher most of his life and was heavily involved in pork production for 37 years.

A lifelong sportsman, he introduced all of his sons to hunting and fishing.The family has often opened its properties to friends for various kinds of hunting.

"We've got some great hunting out there and I don't mind sharing it," he said. "I don't see (guests) destroying my fences or anything, so it's good."

Representing 18 western Kansas counties, Ostmeyer said one of his largest concerns is prairie dog management.

He's not a fan of an ongoing federal program to establish endangered black-footed ferrets on some prairie dog towns in his district.

Ostmeyer said many farmers and ranchers don't like the possible restrictions that could be placed on them because an endangered species has been introduced into the area.

"I think if people want prairie dogs on their lands, they need to make sure they keep them off their neighbors'," he said. "I have people who don't want them, but it seems like the courts are stepping in and saying they can't do this or they can't do that."

He wishes state wildlife authorities would have convinced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to not bring the ferrets to Kansas.

"The whole thing was supposed to be above the table, but they brought them in and nobody knew about it," he said.

Ostmeyer said he also has concerns about too many deer in some areas and the resulting deer/vehicle collisions.

He's unsure what can be done to lower populations on private lands where landowners allow no or limited access to hunters.

He thinks the government should continue programs to prevent the spread of feral hogs into Kansas because they can damage crops, wildlife habitat and spread diseases.

Ostmeyer is against the acquisition of more public lands. One major reason is because it prevents such lands from being purchased by those in the local agriculture industry.

To contact Ostmeyer, call 785-296-7399 or e-mail Ralph. Ostmeyer@senate.ks.gov.