HPPR Environment

hydrology (water, aquifers, rivers)
fauna (wildlife)
climate change

Management & conservation
water conservation
soil conservation
wildlife protection
policies & regulations


My cousin Mark Jones ranches in eastern Colorado on what were once the headwaters of the Arickaree, a tributary to the Republican River. Mark calls it the Ricaree. “Was there water here in the Ricaree when you were a kid?” I asked him.

“Oh yeah,” he said.

“Is there ever water in it now?”

“Hardly ever.”

Last week I shared my experience hunting down the elusive McFarland Juniper, so I thought this week I could offer a few more evergreen endorsements to round out your coniferous collection.

Today’s Growing on the High Plains will continue the conversation about landscaping with drought-tolerant evergreens. Gardeners, hedge your bets with a lovely Woodward Juniper perimeter, or perhaps rock out with a stunning, jade-hued Arizona Cyprus accent tree. Both trees are known to reach impressive heights, and neither require quite as much watering as you might expect.

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Recent radar imagery shows a large portion of West Texas, near the New Mexico border, is sinking at alarming rates.

Two massive sinkholes are heaving and moving near Wink, Texas, according to a geophysical team from Southern Methodist University. The sinking is occurring across a 4000-square-mile region. Some areas have sunk as much as three and a half feet in a little over two years, reports phys.org.

Jonathan Baker

Several fires burned throughout the Texas Panhandle this weekend, on a Sunday that was windy even by West Texas standards. One fire near the northwest loop of Amarillo ultimately burned 400 acres of grassland before being conquered by firefighters from Potter County Fire, the Texas A&M Forest Service, and the Amarillo Street Department.

Kansas Fire Service

State officials said yesterday that the recent rain helped emergency responders across Kansas put out the latest wave of wildfires. Sixty-two wildland fires burned more than 17,000 acres between March 14th and 18th. The wildfires initially broke out in Rice county but were followed by fires in eight other counties -- including Barber and Reno, which were affected by fires earlier in March as well.

Update: Texas Panhandle Wildfires

Mar 19, 2018
Texas A&M Forestry Service / tfsgis.tamu.edu/currentfireactivity/

Over the weekend, several fires broke out across the Texas Panhandle.

According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, the County Line fire that started in Hartley County on Thursday and spread into Oldham and Moore counties burned 15,682 acres. It is now 100 percent contained.

The second largest fire, the Old Muddy Road fire, began in Potter County Sunday and burned 4,480 acres as of Monday morning, at which time it was 65 percent contained.

Luke Clayton

Join Luke at the campfire in front of his cabin this week and learn one of his simple, but very tasty camp recipes.

We don't always have a lot of time for cooking on fishing or hunting camps, but this tasty recipe takes canned beans and sausages to the next level!


Hays-based non-profit Sunflower Electric announced at the end of February that it will purchase energy from the Johnson Corner Solar Project when it opens in 2019.

As the Hays Daily News Reports, the 240-acre solar facility in Stanton county will likely be Kansas’s largest solar plant and will produce around 55,000-megawatt hours, annually. That’s around 1% of the total energy that Sunflower Electric and its sister company Mid-Kansas Electric produce.

L. A. Huffman

When we were kids, my brother Bruce had a knack for finding arrowheads on the pasture hills surrounding our family’s farm. Once, he even found a point resting in the grass at the base of a neighbor’s light pole. I would drag sharp edges of against my palm and imagine braves racing bareback over our once unfenced pastures.

But despite the fact that these artifacts practically littered the ground beneath my feet, I grew up ignorant of Indian history. I didn’t know that many of the battles I’d seen on TV and at the movies, between cowboys, or cavalry, and Indians had taken place right in the Kansas-Colorado border region where we lived.

I’ve long admired McFarland juniper trees—capable of growing to towering heights like an Italian Cyprus, but sturdy enough to withstand the severe High Plains droughts and wind. It had been a long-time dream to add one of these majestic trees to my landscaping, but would I actually be able to locate one?

Jeff McGrew stood in line with about 30 other western Kentucky farmers awaiting certification that they’ve been trained to apply the herbicide dicamba. The two-hour session explained the Environmental Protection Agency’s new restrictions on use of the controversial herbicide.

The session left McGrew uncertain about whether to use the spray.

“I'm undecided right now but I'm leaning towards not spraying it,” he said. “I don't think in our area we're going to have much of any place that there will be enough area that we won't have buffer zones or other sensitive crops and I'm not sure that it's going to work out for us.”

Luke Clayton

In today's High Plains Outdoors, Luke discusses planning a summer fishing trip to Canada. There is a wide array of options when planning a trip; everything from five-star lodges to "do it yourself" camps. Prices of these fly-in trips vary greatly.

In today's show, Luke tells about his trip last summer where cost, including float plane, lodging in a comfortable cabin, fish cleaning, and boat and motor was just under $1,000 US dollars.

Our Turn At This Earth: In Search Of Live Water

Mar 8, 2018
Julene Bair

I once read a beautiful definition of a spring:  “a place where, without the agency of man, water flows from rock or soil.” That water can just appear in this way, often in a very dry place, has enchanted me ever since I was a young woman, traveling and camping in the Mojave Desert.

In those miraculous places where water trickled through cracks in granite or up from an otherwise dry creek bed, life sprang forth as magically as the water. Fish weaved through clear pools, casting shadows on sand or gravel bottoms. Birds darted among willow shrubs and cottonwoods. Bees buzzed. Butterflies flitted from flower to flower. Invariably, I found places in the lush grasses where deer or antelope had slept.

The gift of live plants can be a welcome addition to any garden, but briars beware: it’s important to perform the proper due diligence of your recently acquired flora before you begin laying roots.

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I share a cautionary tale about my own personal experience integrating misidentified gifted plants into my garden, and the resulting siege that they aggressively waged against my existing vegetation. So gardeners take heed and head off any invasive maneuvers by properly identifying acquisitions before you plant!  

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Texas has been fighting with New Mexico over rights to the water in the Rio Grande River for years.

This week, as the Austin American-Statesman reports, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Federal government will be allowed to intervene in the dispute. This ruling is seen as a big win for the State of Texas, as the state has long been asking the feds to intervene.

One year and nearly a half million torched acres after the Starbuck wildfire, strong winds blow across a parched Kansas landscape.

In some ways, last year’s experience showed how man-made systems fell short of handling natural disaster.

As March roars in with another dangerous fire season, lessons from 2017 will be tested and Kansas could learn whether it’s better prepared now.

Luke Clayton

Join Luke on the porch of his cabin this morning and he will walk you through a very simple but tasty method of making Kielbasa smoked sausage.

Rather than buying all the bulk seasonings, measuring and blending, Luke prefers to use a kit from Butcher Supply. This kit contains the proper amount of blended seasoning to make 25 pounds of very tasty Kielbasa.

Luke walks you, step by step, through the process in today's show. This is something that YOU can do and save some $$ in the process.

Perhaps Billie Holiday said it best: "Oh, what a little moonlight can do!" While she was surely evoking the charms of low-lit romance, the same rings true for an evening landscape.

Today's Growing on the High Plains shines a silver spotlight on moon gardens. You'll learn how to plant the perfect bed of luminous blooms and fragrant foliage to best enjoy your garden around the clock and throughout the entire growing season.

Kansas regulators have found that more than one thousand applications for new wastewater disposal wells failed to give the required 30-day public notice period.

Since October 2008, applicants hoping to get approval to begin operating wastewater disposal wells have been required to alert the public about a 30-day protest period.


Last week, the Kansas Senate passed a bill that would add Little Jerusalem and The Flint Hills Trail to Kansas’ 26 state parks.


As the Wichita Eagle Reports, funding for the two new parks would come from the state parks fees fund -- a $300,000 one-time setup cost, and then roughly $200,000 a year for staffing and maintenance.


Kansas regulators have found that more than 1,000 applications for new wastewater disposal wells failed to give the proper 30-day public notice period.

Western Illinois might be close to the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, but it’s the driest part of the state this year.

“We really haven’t really had any measurable rain since the middle of October,” says Ken Schafer, who farms winter wheat, corn and soybeans in Jerseyville, north of St. Louis. “I dug some post-holes this winter, and it's just dust.”

Farmers depend on productive, sustainable land, clean water and air and healthy animals to make a living. To help create those conditions and protect ecosystems, they get help from conservation programs that make up about 6 percent of the $500 billion federal farm bill.

Luke Clayton

In this week’s show, Luke talks about a hunt for javelina that he enjoyed this past week at one of his favorite places, Ranger Creek Ranch, near Seymour in in northern Texas. 

During the hunt, Luke used his Darton Maverick 2 compound bow to take a good "eater" that weighed about 35 pounds.


In the Oklahoma Panhandle, the nation’s largest wind farm is growing closer to completion by the day. As EcoWatch reports, the Wind Catcher Energy Connection project will include a massive 800-turbine wind farm.

This week, the project took a necessary step when Southwestern Electric Power Company reached an agreement with interested parties, including Walmart, allowing the wind farm to forward. The project is expected to cost $4.5 billion.

Our Turn At This Earth: The Writing On The Wall

Feb 22, 2018
Susan O’Shea/susanoshea.files.wordpress.com

According to legends passed down from generation to generation among the Hopi Indians, humanity has occupied three previous worlds, each of which was destroyed because we failed to honor the instructions of our creator. I learned about this myth from a man named James, a Hopi farmer whose family I stayed with during a 1980s visit to Hotevilla, the most traditional Hopi village.

We might be weathering some chilly temperatures now, but High Plains gardeners know that it's not too soon to think about spring planting. Today's Growing on the High Plains gives a shout-out to one of my favorite "firsts" among springtime flower beds: the pansy.

These bright blooms look anything but shy, and they're available in a variety of shades and fragrances. I'll offer some hot tips for these cool-weather friends, as well their love-laced legend. 

Oil Production Ramping Up In Colorado

Feb 20, 2018
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Record levels of oil production in Colorado are being driven by a steady rise in oil prices.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, oil prices rose from a low of $43 a barrel in June to just over $60 a barrel for much of January and February and the uptick in prices has prompted an uptick in oil production.

US Department of Agriculture

Groundwater levels in western Kansas remained level and rose slightly in central Kansas last year.

As The KU News Service reports, 2017 groundwater levels remained steady in western Kansas, according to data from the Kansas Geological Survey, which along with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, measures water levels in 1400 water wells in western and central Kansas each year.