HPPR Environment

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

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

You Can Learn How To Drive A Steam Train

Jul 25, 2017
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People on the High Plains can learn how to drive a steam train, just by taking a day trip to the Colorado-New Mexico border.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, the Cumbers and Toltec Scenic Railroad dates back to the 1880s and is the highest and longest steam-operated railroad in the country – a National Historic Landmark – that ferry tourists between Chama and Antonito Colorado every day during the summer and fall seasons.

Luke Clayton

For the past seven years, Luke and a friend have outfitted archery elk and bear hunts in northern Colorado. This is a busy time of year with lots of preparation for the high country hunting. Luke is busy curing and smoking ham and grinding sausage for the three weeks in elk camp.

There’s nothing more tasty than a big breakfast with cured hickory smoked ham when in that cool mountain air. For more information, visit the Hunting East Texas website

After decades of alarming headlines, Kansas may be on the verge of preserving an ancient groundwater resource that helped make it an agricultural powerhouse.

Since the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, researchers have warned that farmers were pumping water from the part of the massive Ogallala aquifer that underlies Kansas faster than nature could replace it.

But a new emphasis on conservation spearheaded by Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is starting to reverse that longstanding trend.

When curating one's seasonal planting, most veteran gardeners have their favorites. Time-saving green thumbs often prefer perennials, while those attracted to a regular change of scenery might opt for annuals. 

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The oil and gas industry in Colorado over the past four years has put millions of dollars into campaigns for politicians and for public relations.

As The Denver Post reports, the oil and gas industry has poured more than $80 million into Colorado to shape public opinion and influence campaigns and ballot initiatives, creating a political force that has had broad implications throughout the state.

Kansas Geological Survey

There is hope for the Ogallala Aquifer.

That, according to the Garden City Telegram, is what Gov. Sam Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer said when they visited Garden City Tuesday.

Gov. Sam Brownback visited western Kansas on Tuesday to tout that farming with less water from the Ogallala Aquifer is viable.

Farmers in a 99-square-mile area of Sheridan County have managed to cut their irrigation by more than 20 percent over the last four years, and they're still just as profitable as their neighbors who haven’t cut back like that. Jim Butler of the Kansas Geological Survey says it could extend the life of the Ogallala.

Kansas Agland

It may seem unlikely, but a form of cannabis played a surprising part in the foundational history of the United States, namely the maiden voyage.

The Mayflower that ferried British separatists across the sea, the descendants of whom would later craft the Constitution, was a vessel made possible by the use of hemp, a variety of the cannabis plant with little psychoactive properties but immense industrial potential spanning food, cosmetics and building supplies.

Streams and rivers in Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska and other parts of the central Great Plains are vanishing as farmers continue to pump groundwater to irrigate their crops.

Groundwater is the lifeblood of Great Plains agriculture. But as farmers pump more, it’s turning nearby creeks into dry riverbeds.

Kurt Fausch, a Colorado State University professor, says in a 60-year span about 350 miles of stream disappeared in eastern Colorado, southwest Nebraska and northwest Kansas. And if farmers keep pumping, another 180 miles could vanish by 2060.

On a cloudy summer day, Iowa farmer Wendy Johnson lifts the corner of a mobile chicken tractor, a lightweight plastic frame covered in wire mesh that has corralled her month-old meat chickens for a few days, and frees several dozen birds to peck the surrounding area at will. Soon, she’ll sell these chickens to customers at local markets in eastern Iowa.

The demand for beef, pork and chicken raised on smaller farms closer to home is growing. Now, some Midwest farmers, like Johnson, are exploring how to graze livestock to meet those demands while still earning a profit.

Luke Clayton

Luke Clayton takes you "on the scene" this week - on a catfishing trip to Lake Fork in eastern Texas, with his grandson Jack Zimmerman and fishing guide Seth Vanover.

The fish were holding in water 20 feet deep, close to bottom and hitting Stubby’s Cheese bait on a #4 treble hook.

Chumming with cattle range cubes had the fish stacked under the boat and catching was fast-paced! 


This is the final 2017 Kansas Wheat Harvest Report brought to you by the Kansas Wheat Commission, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and the Kansas Grain and Feed Association.

Wheat’s resiliency has been a common topic during this year’s Kansas Wheat Harvest Reports. From lack of moisture to a late season snowfall, wheat for many farmers has managed to cling on, produce bushels and show the value of modern wheat genetics. But, other wheat acres weren’t as lucky with circumstances like visits from hail, the “big white combine,” and widespread Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus.

ATCHISON, Kan. — The families of six men killed when a grain elevator blew up on the banks of the Missouri River here in 2011 have now waited well over five and a half years for closure in the case.

But the hurt is still raw, they say; for them, it could have happened yesterday.

My passion for growing beets all started with a jar of these vibrant veggies that were homemade and pickled by a friend. Years later, I am proud to say I've reaped many a beet harvest, producing countless batches that were lovingly boiled and bequeathed to others. 

  • On today's Growing on the High Plains, I'll discuss these sturdy root vegetables, their royal history, and their versatile applications -- from soup to dye to insecticide. Thankfully, beets seem to thrive on the High Pains. So I guess it's true: the beet goes on.


Nebraska's Solar Power Generation On the Rise

Jul 10, 2017
Creative Commons CC0

Nebraska’s solar power generation has increased from around one megawatt at the start of 2016 to over 13 megawatts by mid-2017.

That is what David Bracht of the Nebraska Energy Office recently told NET Nebraska.

CC0 Public Domain

The pheasant population in Kansas has returned to pre-drought conditions and the whistling quail population is the highest in the history of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s annual pheasant crowing survey.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism conducts the survey between April 25 and May 15 each year and this year’s survey showed a 30 percent improvement in the pheasant population over last year’s numbers.

The federal government is proposing refiners use slightly less ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply next year. However, the cut would not be a blow to corn farmers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the annual mandate for renewable fuel and is suggesting a 2 percent decrease for 2018, down to just over 19 billion gallons.

Luke Clayton

In this weeks High Plains Outdoors, Luke visits with Guide Seth Vanover and discusses patterns for catching crappie during the warm weather months.

Kansas wheat yields continue to vary greatly

Jul 6, 2017

The wheat harvest in Kansas is about three-quarters of the way done and yields continue to be highly variable.

According to the Day 15 Kansas Wheat Harvest report issued Wednesday, yields in north central Kansas are ranging from anywhere between 20 and 80 bushels per acre, but Dell Princ, manager of Midway Coop in Osborne estimates most yields are hovering around the 40-bushel-per-acre range.

Eric Sperber, manager of Cornerstone Ag, LLC, in Colby, said yields have been all over the board there, as well.

You might have noticed that our recent High Plains showers have brought forth a few amphibious fellows into yards and gardens across our region.

On today's Growing on the High Plains, I'll give a little advice on how to greet these tubby-tummied pals if you see them hopping and flopping about.  

Despite their grumpy countenance, you should be happy to see them, as they can be a boon to any summer garden.


The lesser prairie chicken population in the High Plains is stable.

As the Topeka Capital-Journal reports, the latest aerial survey by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies points to stability in the breeding population of lesser prairie chickens at a time when numbers of the birds concentrated in parts of five U.S. states expanded most notably in northwest Kansas’ short-grass prairie region.                    

SciFiles: What's Next In Clean Energy?

Jul 5, 2017

In 2007, America’s electricity sources were much more diverse than those in Kansas. Less than half of nationwide electricity was generated from coal, with almost equal amounts of natural gas and nuclear power. Kansas, meanwhile, relied on a less diverse mix, with nearly 80 percent of the state’s power coming from imported coal.

Mountain lions in Kansas? Possible but not likely

Jul 4, 2017
Public Domain

By now, everyone has heard about a sighting of a mountain lion in the anything but mountainous terrain of Kansas, it probably wasn’t a mountain lion.

While a trail camera in Rawlins County in the far northwest corner of the state confirmed the existence of a mountain lion in September 2016, as the Wichita Eagle reports, it’s one of only a few confirmed sightings of the large cat in the Sunflower State over the past 100 years.

Wildfires burned through thousands of acres of Great Plains farm and ranch land in the 1980s. Today, wildfires are likely to char millions of acres.

The Great Plains are seeing more wildfires, according to a new study, leading researchers to ask why the fires are happening, and fire managers to examine what resources they will need to keep the blazes in check.

Driverless beer delivery sets Guinness World Record

Jun 30, 2017

That self-driving truck that delivered beer down I-25 in Colorado a few months ago? It set a Guinness World Record.

As The Denver Post reports, in October, a self-driving truck from tech company Otto hauled 51,744 cans of Budweiser beer from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, Colorado. The 132-mile road trip set a Guinness World Record for the “Longest continuous journey by a driverless and autonomous lorry,” which in non-British English means tractor-trailer.

Luke Clayton

 Luke Clayton and Lake Tawakoni catfish guide David Hanson (903) 268 7391 discuss a recent trip with Luke, his daughter Ashley and her two children Anna and Conner.

Today's show's theme is introducing youngsters to the sport of fishing. Tune in and learn the do's and dont's of getting kids "hooked" on fishing. 


The wind that blows across the Great Plains makes it prime real estate for wind turbines.

But as Colorado Public Radio reports, some are concerned that wind energy could threaten the reliability of the nation’s electric grid, while others believe if properly planned for, there’s no limit on how much renewable energy the grid can one day handle.

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Cheap, imported solar panels have fueled growth in the solar industry in Texas, and reinvigorated the careers of laid-off oilfield workers, as the Texas Tribune reports, but some industry leaders fear a trade case will increase prices and end that growth. 

Today we'll take a trip to a pumpkin paradise, thanks to Steve & Janet Weidner. These two are regional gourd royalty, tending a massive pumpkin and squash farm on the High Plains. 

Kansas wheat harvest yields a mixed bag

Jun 28, 2017
CC0 Public Domain

Wheat harvest is in full swing across the High Plains and according to Kansas Wheat, yields in the Sunflower State have been a mixed bag.

According to day 12 of the Kansas Wheat Harvest reports, Irsik and Doll Feed Service of Pierceville reported yields of 30 to 40 bushels per acre, while Mid State Farmers Coop of Rush Center reported average yields of 45 to 50 bushels per acre. The highest average yields reported by the WaKeeney branch of Frontier Ag, Inc., were in the 40s.