HPPR Environment

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

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

Luke Clayton

 Howdy folks!

It seems hard to believe that I was just fishing for Northern Pike in the land of the midnight sun, and now I'm thousands of miles south with the grandsons on a fishing trip in Galveston Bay.  I'm fishing with the crew of Captain Mike Williams.  You might remember Mike, we went shark fishing with him last year.  He owns Galveston Fishing Guides.     

This is the closest salt water for most of us, and I tell you, if you could an opportunity, head on down to the bay and do some fishing... and take the family.  You'll be glad you did.

Sweet Annie

Jul 15, 2015

 A favorite herb has responded to our recent rains and taken up an expanded residence at my place.  I welcome it with open arms and nasal passages, as its aromatic aura clears my head and provides fresh potpourri all around the house.  It's also a good keeper in the dried stage, filling in dried floral arrangements with lacy backgrounds that last well into the winter months.  Though it has a somewhat colorful past in the wormwood family, its gentle fronds and somewhat spicy scent are best known by it's common name of Sweet Annie.  


This raptor migrates from its winter home in Argentina into western North America and breeds as far north as Canada. It's fate is tied to the amount of open rangeland left in the western prairie, and lots of habitat has been lost in the 20th Century after range land was broken out and farmed. The bird helps producers by eating insects, mammals and reptiles considered by producers to be pests. Conservation Reserve Program-enrolled land provides the type of habitat the bird can thrive in.


Dingle Images

Somewhere I saw this quote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” I agree and add you’ll meet interesting creatures along the way. Sometimes those new acquaintances look like something from an intergalactic space bar.

Wheat Crop Stronger than Expected, Despite Hurdles

Jul 12, 2015
Tanner Colvin / Salina Journal

Kansas Agland reports that many farmers have been pleasantly surprised by this year’s wheat crop—especially considering that this year’s crop was subjected to just about every threat imaginable.

Phil Zimmerman

In last week’s column we visited about my recent five-day fishing trip with Cree River Lodge to the remote waters of northern Saskatchewan. This week, I’d like to recreate a typical day up there, if there is such a thing as “typical” in the most awesome part of the world.


A trip to Northwest Kansas introduced my husband and me to a wildflower I hadn't seen before.  Our destination was the Smokey Valley Ranch, a working cattle ranch in Logan County.  Owned by the Kansas Nature Conservancy, the day-long visit began as a volunteer work session, as we helped remove invasive red cedars and clear old fence posts and barbed wire.  But it also turned into a wonderful learning experience as we observed the flora and fauna of the native shortgrass prairie that is protected there.

University of Denver

Civil rights for animals may be the next frontier in the struggle for rights, reports Colorado Public Radio. Justin Marceau is the University of Denver’s first full-time animal professor, and he has been working hard to fight the so-called “Ag-Gag” law in Idaho, which makes filming inside of farms and slaughterhouses illegal. The litigation supposedly targets “extremists” and “agriterrorists.” But Marceau argues that the law would, in fact, prevent whistleblowers from exposing abuses in farms and slaughterhouses. 

Alan Vernon

They're not sport birds, but they are important to the ecological balance of range land. We look at the lives and habitats of the birds, and how conservation initiatives like Conservation Reserve Program helps these species.


Tammy VerCauteren
Executive Director
Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory
Ft. Collins, CO

Matthew Bain
Smokey Valley Ranch Project Coord.
The Nature Conservancy
Oakley, KS

If you’ve ever closely examined vintage Ellis photos, you know the town had even more big trees shading yards, parks, and walkways than exist today. Seeing old pictures made me think about trees growing around town. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look long before I found a history of local tree culture.

North to Canada!

Jul 3, 2015
Luke Clayton

 My longing to spend time in what I call the “North Country” began when I was a youngster reading accounts of hunting and fishing trips in Canada. This past week, thanks to the organizational skills of my friends Canadian outdoors writer Brad Fenson, Pat Babcock, owner of Cree River Lodge and the Saskatchewan Department of Tourism, my lifelong dream came to be. The fishing and scenery in this wild country was everything I had hoped it to be and… more!

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

While the five-year drought has been broken in Oklahoma, the rain was too much and too late for many wheat farmers, says StateImpact, a reporting project of NPR stations. This year, the wheat crop was ready before the fields were dry. Though the rain was certainly more welcome than the alternative, many wheat fields were too soggy for combines and other heavy equipment to be employed.

Art on the Move

Jun 29, 2015

Frequently, I see ornate box turtles crossing a country road or highway. Because I like this home-carrying little reptile, I dodge these little speed bumps. While seeing them slowly lumber across the road triggers a smile, I hadn’t thought much about these Kansas state reptiles until recently.

This summer, I’ve been waking up early to enjoy the cool morning air as I water, weed, and pick veggies. A bonus of rising with the sun is meeting some of my yard neighbors that hide during the heat of the day.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

The High Plains Journal has reported on concerns of High Plains farmers about the returning presence of sugarcane aphids to the region this season, which could be a threat to sorghum yields. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts have suggested that hybrid pearl millet might be an alternative for growers.

In the Great Smoky Mountains, A Lightning Bug Symphony

Jun 25, 2015
Ryan Atkins

Just for fun, while there's still some summer left, here's a travel idea to see one of nature's most magnificent light shows. During hot summers on the High Plains, we still get a chance to see lightning bugs dancing at twilight. But the Great Smoky Mountains National Park takes it to a new level.  


A look at a seasonal bug that's not really a garden pest but more of an outdoor nuisance at this time of year.  Buzzing incessently around any bright light to be found, and then crashing into anything that stands in their way, junebugs are a favorite menu item for toads.  So I put out the welcome mat for toads big and small, giving them right-of-way on garden paths and offering a cool dark hiding place during the day.  When it's suppertime, I leave the light on outside and offer the toads the best table at the Junebug Cafe.

Big Companies Expand Testing of Organic "Biopesticides"

Jun 23, 2015
Dan Charles / NPR

One of the biggest hurdles farmers have faced in recent years is the sticky problem of how to kill weeds organically. As conventional farmers fall under increasing pressure to use fewer toxic chemicals, they have begun to search for less pernicious methods of eliminating weeds, according to NPR.com. One answer is microbe-produced pesticides, known as biopesticides.

Panhandle Corn Crops May Recover from Wet Conditions

Jun 23, 2015
killermart / Flickr Creative Commons

Many Texas and Oklahoma panhandle corn producers have had to delay planting due to wet conditions produced by record levels of rain in recent months.  The High Plains Journal reports that corn farmers are considering planting corn hybrids that mature earlier, or perhaps planting other crops such as grain sorghum.

William C. Johnson

The town of Eads in Kiowa County, Colorado, was already familiar with wildlife tourism. The community saw the cleanup and preservation of a wetland south of town as an economic development opportunity, which would attract birders to the habitat to observe local and migrating waterfowl. A ConocoPhillips grant, administered through Playa Lakes Joint Venture, got the project rolling.

The Evolution of the Great American Combine

Jun 22, 2015
Edmund Garman / Flickr Creative Commons

Kansas Agland has a report on how much wheat combines have evolved over the last century. According to the ag website, harvesting wheat a century ago involved cutting wheat stalks with a horse drawn binder and gathering them in bundles. The bundles were then stacked into windrows to dry, after which a giant steam-powered threshing machine separated the wheat kernels from the straw. The entire process was extremely labor intensive.

Study Links Fracking to Low Birth Weight

Jun 22, 2015
todbaker / Creative Commons

A new study has linked hydraulic fracturing with low birth weight, according to The New York Times. Scientists studied almost 16,000 live births in southwest Pennsylvania, categorizing mothers by their proximity to sites where fracking was taking place. The study found that babies born in high exposure areas were 34% more likely to be small for their gestational age.

Nobody told me when I married a game warden that a pelican would take up temporary residence in my children’s wading pool. Nor did I realize my two tiny daughters and I would spend a couple of days throwing our hooks and lines off a bridge over Big Creek trying to catch enough fish to satisfy that visitor’s insatiable appetite. On the other hand, that eating machine never expected to vacation at our house either.

Latest EPA Water Ruling Ruffles Feathers of Farm Lobby

Jun 20, 2015
unknown NOAA employee / Public Domain

The EPA’s latest rule defining which US waters are subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act has come under attack by America’s largest farm and ranch lobby. The Rural Blog quotes the head of the Farm Bureau as saying that “the waters-of-the-U.S. proposal is even worse than before. Our analysis shows yet again how unwise, extreme and unlawful this rule is." The Farm Bureau noted the EPA has broadened its definition of a tributary.

Luke Clayton

 Howdy Folks!

I'm finishing up a book on wild hog hunting and processing, and my research has led to a surprising discovery.  

Trappers can sell the pigs to processors.  the processing plants have a USDA Inspector on the premises.  

Each hog being shipped to Europe is tested for trichinosis, a parasite sometimes prevalent in hogs, and very widespread in bear.  I thought all hogs, both domestic and feral were carriers of trichinosis.  That's not so.  I learned in thousands of pounds of meat, not one has tested positive for this disease.

William Majoros / Creative Commons

Scientists in Wichita who’ve been studying the feathers of a small bird called the dark-eyed junco have come across something interesting, and possibly troublesome. The Wichita Eagle reports that scientists found pathogens resting in the birds’ belly feathers. This might not necessarily be a concern normally, but here’s where things get interesting:   The winter habitat of juncos is being degraded. Intensified agriculture is causing the birds to choose less than optimal habitats.

Cromwell Solar

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Westar Energy faces a challenge — or at least it’s anticipating a challenge — in the growing number of Kansas homes sporting solar panels on their roofs.

Like other utilities, Westar relies on a pricing structure that largely depends on customer usage. The company charges a small monthly fee for customers to access its grid. But for the most part, how much customers pay each month depends on the number of kilowatt-hours of electricity they use.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service

A ConocoPhillips grant provided seed money to assist the state of Kansas purchase 160 acres of salt-marsh wetland in Lincoln County, Kansas, from an elderly landowner who wanted to preserve the land perpetually. Kansas state biologist Matt Smith dealt with owner Jim Gurley, helped Gurley achieve his goal, and says the process was a very satisfying experience. As it was non-federal funding, the ConocoPhillips grant got leveraged multiple times by increasing the amount of federal and state funding made available to the project.

Luke Clayton

 Howdy Folks!

Hop in the truck with me.  This week I'm taking you on a wild hog hunting adventure with Billy Kilpatrick and Terry Tate.  Billy and I are headed down to Terry's.  We're hoping Billy will be successful with one of Terry's big bore rifles.


Jun 12, 2015

This week we'll look at some new doings in food production, as science makes the scene in both the garden and the fruit orchard.  A brief history of efforts to produce grafted tomatoes and potatoes brings us from the early 70's to today's promise of a single plant with tomatoes on the top and spuds beneath.  But this is nothing new to folks who have been grafting fruit tree limbs to produce tangelos, plucots, plumcots, and more.     

Jerod Foster

ConocoPhillips has teamed with Playa Lakes Joint Venture for more than 25 years to provide in-kind assistance and funds to provide conservation grants -- seed money to get conservation and habitat projects off and running. We talk about the importance of this non-federal source of money, which gets leveraged time and again by federal or state funds to make conservation/habitat projects happen.