High Plains Public Radio

HPPR Environment

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

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


A Christmas gift from a friend inspires Skip to learn to try her hand at growing and processing her own supply of pickled beets.

MBT Centennial: Cassin’s Sparrow

May 3, 2016
Christopher L. Wood / allaboutbirds.org / Cornell University

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain on behalf of Canada. That treaty and the three that followed — with Japan, Russia and Mexico — form the cornerstones of our efforts to conserve migratory birds, like the Cassin’s Sparrow.

A little Texas Bucket List Postcard

Apr 29, 2016
Cindee Talley

Luke, Thanks for letting me share my Texas Bucket List adventure, but mostly thanks for being my friend and my tour guide. This trip was great because of you. Three of us, my dear friends Rick and Kelly Reece, and I left Western Nebraska on Wednesday morning with a goal of experiencing two destinations: Mark Balette's ranch near Goveton, Texas; and the Gulf Coast. We left in a freezing cold blizzard. After 12 hours of driving, we called it a night in Ennis, Texas. Little did I know, we were...

Thomas Bougher / Texas Tribune

When Texas industrial plants break down or close for maintenance, they often spew tons of pollutants into the atmosphere. And they aren’t being properly held accountable, reports The Texas Tribune . A new report has found that 679 facilities from the Gulf of Mexico to West Texas emitted more than 68 million pounds of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, benzene and other toxic substances last year. The pollution occurred during over 3,000 incidents of breakdown or maintenance. State environmental...

Prowers Journal

Recent precipitation has helped to alleviate drought conditions across parts of Colorado, reports The Prowers Journal . Parts of the central mountains and Front Range saw as much as 3 inches of precipitation. And there’s more good news: short and long term forecasts favor continued precipitation. And reservoir storage looks good, so there are no immediate concerns for water providers. Many agricultural producers are looking to increase production this season to compensate for low commodity...

Wikimedia Commons

If Nebraska were to switch from coal to wind energy, it could save the state almost two billion gallons of water a year, according to the Center for Rural Affairs . Nebraska currently ranks fourth in the nation for wind energy potential and 13th for solar power potential. But the state relies heavily on coal to provide energy for its citizens. The state’s coal-fired Sheldon Station alone uses 120,000 gallons of ground water per minute to cool the power plant. By switching to renewable energy,...

Daffodils and Poetry

Apr 27, 2016

Plants and poetry are frequent partners, and perhaps no combination of the literary and the horticultural is better known that Wordsworth and daffodils. His love of the great outdoors prompted him to walk across England and then all of Europe, during which time he penned his famous descriptive poem that begins, "I wandered lonely as a cloud/That floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd/A host, of golden daffodils." This week we're exploring my fondness for daffodils...

MBT Centennial: Mountain Plover

Apr 26, 2016

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain on behalf of Canada. That treaty and the three that followed — with Japan, Russia and Mexico — form the cornerstones of our efforts to conserve migratory birds, like the Mountain Plover.

Cindee Talley

This week’s High Plains Outdoors is the start to a grand adventure for Cindee and three of her friends. The men are headed to Mark Balette’s ranch, B&C Outfitters , to hog hunt, while Cindee and her dear friend, Kelly, are headed to the Gulf. Cindee has no concept of how big Texas really is. Her experience has only been as far as the Panhandle. The whole crew is in for a big treat with the men hunting hogs, and the women heading to stay in a little house on the canals in Rockport as they...

Friday marked the 46th anniversary of Earth Day, and our planet has come a long way since the inaugural holiday. But there have been struggles, too, notes The Kansas City Star . Earth Day began in 1970 in response to a 1969 massive oil spill near Santa Barbara, Calif. Since then, we’ve seen the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Even so, things are getting better: By 2012, revenue from renewable energy resources amounted to...

Chris Hill / examiner.com

It’s been a crazy spring on the High Plains, to say the least. Last week, as reported by Newschannel 10, the Oklahoma panhandle saw torrential rains, hail, and tornadoes. Water flooded roads, and highways were closed. Meanwhile, roads were closed in the Texas Panhandle, too, and tornadoes touched down in the area. The rains brought moisture to Kansas, as well, says ksn.com —but no flooding, thankfully. Albert, in Barton County, recorded the greatest amount of rainfall over the 48-hour period...

MBT Centennial: Burrowing Owl

Apr 19, 2016
Stan Keiser/Audubon Photography Awards / audubon.org

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain on behalf of Canada. That treaty and the three that followed — with Japan, Russia and Mexico — form the cornerstones of our efforts to conserve migratory birds, like the Burrowing Owl.

Olivia Morrison / Wichita Eagle

Last month saw the worst wildfire in Kansas history. The fires in Kansas can be partially blamed on a plant that was of little concern a half century ago. Fifty years ago red cedar trees in Kansas were counted in the tens of thousands. Now the number is closer to 100 million, reports Kansas.com. Just in the last ten years the number of cedar trees in the state has jumped by thirty million. The cedars, sometimes called junipers, make ideal kindling for wildfires. And when you toss in recent...

NASA / Wikimedia Commons

Wild hogs have overtaken Oklahoma’s farmland, and the problem is costing farmers thousands, reports KOCO.com. The animals are known for churning up crops and leaving holes in the soil. They also sometimes uproot and sometimes eat the seeds. One planter, Todd Manwell of Choctaw, is being forced to replant his 60-acre cornfield. “[The hogs] carry diseases, they’ll get back in your yard and kill a dog. They’re extremely dangerous,” he said. It’s going to cost him thousands of dollars to replant;...


As the residents of Flint, Michigan, grapple with the thorny problem of how to live in a place where the water is toxic, concern about drinking water safety has spread across the US. The Rural Blog reports that 55% of rural area have higher-than-average lead levels. The High Plains region appears to be some of the most dangerous in the nation, viewed as part of a thick red strip of lead danger that makes up the center part of the continental United States, according to an interactive map...

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

From Harvest Public Media : Food waste is an expensive problem. The average U.S. family puts upwards of $2,000 worth of food in the garbage every year. What some see as a problem, however, others see as a business opportunity. A new facility, known as the Heartland Biogas Project , promises to take wasted food from Colorado’s Front Range and turn it into electricity. Through a technology known as anaerobic digestion, spoiled milk, dented canned goods, old pet food, vats of grease and helpful...

Granger Meador / Flickr Creative Commons

The state of Oklahoma has been locked in a pitched battle with the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes over who should control a lake in the southeastern part of the state, known as Sardis Lake, reports StateImpact Oklahoma . At issue: the water isn’t just used for drinking or fishing by the tribes; for them it is sacred. Though the tribes were forced from their homelands in the 19 th century, they’ve developed a spiritual connection with the water here. There’s a sacred burial site here, and the...

MBT Centennial: Lark Bunting

Apr 12, 2016
2013, Gerhard Assenmacher / Boulder County Audubon Society

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain on behalf of Canada. That treaty and the three that followed — with Japan, Russia and Mexico — form the cornerstones of our efforts to conserve migratory birds, like the Lark Bunting.


For a man who wrote easy-on-the-ear verse in line after line of iambic pentameter, William Shakespeare must spin in his grave to think he’s the reason millions of screeching, squabbling starlings swarm from shore to shore and border to border in America. So who had the misguided idea to import these obnoxious creatures? In 1890 and 91, New Yorker Edward Schieffelin , a leader of the American Acclimatization Society, acted on a romantic notion to import examples of everything ever mentioned in a Shakespearian play to his hometown. Unfortunately, the bard included starlings in a scene in part one of Henry IV . That was the beginning of this cursed bird’s existence in the New World.

Texas A&M

A species of minnow that has eluded scientists for over a century has been found hiding out in West Texas, reports UPI.com. I t all occurred thanks to a case of mistaken identity. Notropis megalops , the West Texas shiner, closely resembles the Texas shiner, Notropis amabilis . But scientists at Texas A&M have examined the minnow’s DNA and confirmed the species distinction. “I guess you could say we have discovered an 'old-but-new' minnow way out in West Texas where nobody expected to...


Yesterday we reported on a problem Texas is struggling with: The state has so much renewable energy these days that, when the flow slows it costs power companies a lot to ramp up fossil fuel energy again. This problem could be solved by renewable energy storage, the next frontier on the energy landscape. Batteries can store power, but the cost can be prohibitive. However, Colorado Public Radio reports that now a company in Nevada may have found a solution. SolarReserve has built a large solar...

Public Domain

Panhandle folks out for stroll last night were treated to a dust storm of Biblical proportions. Because of the darkness, no one really saw the magnitude of the thing. But you could feel its hugeness deep down in your soul, it seemed. NBC meterologists say the storm was about 100 miles wide and covered most of the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles. The Northeasterly winds of nearly 60 mph brought down a cold front and kicked up a whole lot of dust before finally fizzling somewhere south of the...

Candace Krebs / Ag Journal Online

The mild winter on the High Plains has changed to a dry and windy spring of unusual warmth. And the weather is wreaking havoc in various ways. For example, reports Ag Journal , a huge wildfire flared up across portions of northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas last week. And wheat stripe rust was discovered in eastern Colorado, much earlier than expected. Stripe rust is a disease that can threaten wheat yields. Colorado State University plant pathologist Kirk Broders says the appearance of...

US Drought Monitor / myplainview.com

The encroaching drought situation in the Texas Panhandle is quickly becoming critical, says myplainview.com. The latest Water Weekly chart on soil moisture conditions, released Monday by the Texas Water Development Board, shows almost the entire Panhandle-South Plains region now under deficient soil moisture conditions. A week ago, portions of only three Panhandle counties were classified as in a moderate drought. Now that number has risen to at least 14 counties. They are: Castro, Swisher,...

Joe Amon / The Denver Post

In the wake of Colorado’s population and development boom, conservation groups scrambled to save 86,000 acres of undeveloped nature, reports The Denver Post . The land includes part of the 50,000-acre JE Ranch east of Trinidad in the Purgatoire River Valley. The deals were negotiated by the Nature Conservancy and Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust. The negotiated easements will prevent subdivision and industrial or commercial development on the land, but will allow traditional...

MBT Centennial: Ferruginous Hawk

Apr 5, 2016

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain on behalf of Canada. That treaty and the three that followed — with Japan, Russia and Mexico — form the cornerstones of our efforts to conserve migratory birds, like the Ferruginous Hawk.

Michael Gabler / Wikimedia Commons

Up in Montana, the buffalo are back. After almost a century and a half, a herd of North American Bison will soon be welcomed back into Montana’s Blackfeet Indian Reservation—the animal’s ancestral homeland. As a symbol of their traditions, Blackfeet tribal leaders are welcoming the 89 bison to roam their 4,000 square mile reservation. In 2014, a treaty was signed among 11 tribes in the US and Canada to reinstate to the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains regions. This program is one result of...


Oklahoma isn’t the only state where the controversial process known as “fracking” has resulted in fights between state and federal officials, and the oil and gas industry. Water wells were recently found to be polluted in Wyoming, and watchdogs immediately pointed the finger at the state’s hydraulic fracturing operations. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has since released a report saying fracking likely played little role in the polluted water wells. In response, reports The...

Tiffany Stecker / eenews.net

It took 10 million years for the Ogallala Aquifer to fill with water. Now, says a report on eenews.net, after just over a century of pumping and irrigation, a third of the Ogallala is gone, and its future is in grave danger. The Ogallala supplies water to almost 20 percent of the nation's wheat and cotton crops and cattle. But in Haskell County, in the southwest corner of Kansas, water levels have dropped 150 feet since 1950. And that’s just one of many bleak examples. Some once-lush fields...

Valerie Mosley / Colorodoan

The debate over climate change has resulted in simmering tensions across the US for years. And this week the issue led to a showdown in the Colorado legislature, reports the Coloradoan . The tussle between Democrats and Republicans occurred over whether to pay for efforts to curb carbon emissions. Republicans say it’s a waste of money to comply with the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. The federal plan regulates carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, which a vast majority of...