HPPR Environment

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

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

Playa lakes are effective vectors for groundwater recharge and water filtration, but that assumes they're in a healthy state.

Water, soil and habitat specialists discuss the causes of sedimentation and talk about playa restoration.

Eddie Sparks

Most readers of this column are within a few hours drive of Lake Texoma and some of the very best striper fishing in the state, probably in the southwest. Stripers are currently the heaviest they will be all year. They are voraciously feeding on shad, putting on weight for their annul spawning runs up the Red and Washita Rivers.


There are lots of reasons, pro and con, for living in California, but perhaps one of the best reasons for putting down roots has to do with a citrus treat called the Meyer lemon.  A cross between a lemon and an orange, they came to the U.S. by way of China in the early 1900s.  They have soft skins and lots of juice, and because of that they were never developed as a commercial lemon, capable of being shipped across the country.  Instead they became a homeowner's favorite, growing in backyards and providing flavorful fruit on nearly a year-round basis.  Rarely seen at inland stores and markets, they are one of many things that make travelling to sunny California so enjoyable.   

Who owns the water? Can you pump as much as you want? Can a private company pump groundwater from one city and pipe it to other communities? The answer could affect the entire Lone Star State.

It's springtime on the High Plains, and in Texas that means it's wildflower season.

Predictions that the drought is coming to an end in much of Kansas are getting skeptical responses from some weather officials reports the Wichita Eagle. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center indicates drought conditions will ease across the state disappearing in central Kansas and easing significantly in most of western Kansas. Janet Salazar is a hydrologist for the Wichita Branch of the National Weather Service. She says she doesn't know what’s driving the prediction. Larry Ruthi is the meteorologist in charge of the Dodge City branch of the weather service. He says he’s reluctant to declare the drought outlook is wrong. Jeff Hutton agrees if the present pattern continues the map is probably pretty close. The warning coordination meteorologist says even with near or above rainfall, the drought in southwest Kansas won’t be eliminated.

The month of March

Mar 20, 2015

If you live on the Southern High Plains and you like to grow things, then you know what a gamble spring planting dates are.  Just when you think you'll have some early goodies to gather in a few weeks, a blizzard can rear its ugly head down in the Southwest and sweep across our part of the world in nothing flat, leaving us with seedbeds under a foot or two of snow.  In our part of the world, March comes in like a lion and often leaves with another mighty roar.  


The declining Ogallala aquifer is front and center in the state of Kansas.  But one south-central farmer wants to make it clear that water woes don’t grip the whole state reports Kansas Agland.

John Janssen is a farmer in Kinsley.  He’s also a board member of Big Bend Groundwater Management District No. 5.  He says not to throw the whole state in with the Ogallala. 

The Kansas Aqua-Not

Mar 17, 2015
Southwest Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 3

The $19 billion aqueduct to pump water uphill from northeastern Kansas to the water-short west has a bunch of negatives reports Tim Unruh for Kansas Agland.

Some of those discouraging issues are:

  • Indian tribes and neighboring states have voiced concern
  • The aqueduct would cost $1 billion a year to operate
  • The transport price tag of water would be over $450 a acre foot.  That’s hard to pencil out with current prices.
  • Pumping water uphill in an open ditch would result in significant loss to evaporation 

Climate patterns from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans have magnified the Texas drought, but that could be changing. A word of caution, the next drought could be worse.

Luke Clayton

Did you know that there are big bore air rifles on the market shooting over 500 foot pounds of energy which is more than ample for harvesting any animal in North America?

I've been shooting and hunting with air rifles for the past couple years and highlights this week what I considers to be the perfect air rifle for hunting hogs, predators and exotics. It's an easy to handle 45 caliber carbine sporting a 20 inch barrel. 

Designer Spuds

Mar 11, 2015


What's new in the latest 'tater talley?  Well, small is hot and colors are definitely in fashion as new, creamy, and even two-toned potatoes take to the runway.  This year the Mancini garden plot will feature some haute cuisine, as well as some tried-and-true old favorites.  And we'll take a quick look at the pros and cons of  the traditional St. Patrick's Day planting of potatoes.

No one really knows why the High Plains are so high in elevation, but researchers at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado are proposing a new explanation.

Darryl Birkenfeld / Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism

Many playas on federal grasslands in southeast Colorado, southwest Kansas, New Mexico and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles have pitted playas. There's a cooperative effort underway to rehab some of these playas. Restored playas mean shallow water will return. When that happens, plants will burst forth, providing seeds the birds like, and attracting insects, a good source of protein.

Luke Clayton

I like to keep our weekly visits lighthearted and hopefully share a bit of information and knowledge I’ve gleaned from kicking around in the outdoors the past half century. But occasionally I feel the need to “vent” a bit about outdoor related topics. What are your feelings about “hunting” wild hogs from helicopters? Let’s look at the many facets of this often controversial subject.

Discussion was limited to four questions decided prior to the second regional water planning meeting in WaKeeney. Halting water declines at their current levels led one table’s discuss to the conclusion of “no irrigation and more education.” Water quality and nutrients steered to criticism of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the division of Water Resources for proposed regulations. Another group discussion asked the question, “How do you get people from broadly different backgrounds to come together, sit down, and discuss solutions?”

Houseplant name games

Mar 4, 2015

A look at several botanicals that are often best known by their common monikers.  Burro's tail, string of pearls, and mother-in-law's tongue are long lasting houseplants that have earned a place in my home because they can take the heat, both in and out of the kitchen.   

Quail were once plentiful in Texas. But, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife officials the population has fallen over 60 percent in the last 30 years, and it continues to crash reports Texas Public Radio. A group of ranchers are working to restore habitat and bring back native birds.

The Kansas Farm Bureau with support from the Kansas Corn Growers Association is working to put a price tag on saving the prairie chicken. Their message is economic disaster. Jim Sipes is a farmer in Stanton County. There’s been a large reduction in the amount of intent to drill permits that began prior to the drop in oil prices. Sipes says the decrease is largely due to the $46,000 to $83,000 mitigation fee per drilled well companies have to pay for disrupting the bird’s habitat. He says it’s even worse for the wind industry. Three projects have been stopped, and the mitigation fee for each wind tow is $400,000 to $1 million depending on the value of the habitat. There’s also a fee for transmission lines which is roughly $870,000 a mile. These costs are associated with the species having the threatened tag. If the chicken is listed as endangered, it will change everything.

Dale Daniel

A functioning playa provides water to recharge the aquifer. There's also a whole community of wetland plants and invertebrates that need the very shallow water found in a healthy playa. These plants and invertebrates provide food for migrating birds. But when a playa has a pit, it is like "pulling the drain in a bathtub" and it no longer holds water very well. Rehabilitating playas by filling pits restores natural function to those wetlands.

Luke Clayton

Curing and smoking ham at home is very easy. Pictured here are the hams from a 50 pound porker I took on a recent hunt. You can do this yourself!

Here how:

Order a packet of maple sugar cure from Frisco Spices www.friscospices.com. You will actually receive two packages of cure which is plenty for even a couple of ten pound hams. 

Mix a packet of cure with two quarts of water to create the brine. Place hams into the brine and place in refrigerator.

The Perfect Houseplant

Feb 25, 2015

A trip to the supermarket produce section can result in great beginnings for growing your own bromeliads.  This week's Growing on the High Plains looks at a popular tropical plant that doesn't take a lot of care and pays off with beautiful blooms for weeks on end.

Wickipedia Creative Commons

The Sierra Club is calling on Kansas lawmakers to protect Kansans from earthquakes and pollution linked to fracking.  

The environmental group is backing two bills at the Statehouse. One would set new requirements for wells using hydraulic fracturing. The other would make drillers provide a risk pool to pay for damages caused by the industry. Until that pool is established, there would be a moratorium on new injection disposal wells in Harper and Sumner counties, where earthquake activity has been unusually high. The Sierra Club’s Joe Spease says the KCC has passed the buck to the legislature—which has shown no interest in taking action.

What Are Playas?

Feb 23, 2015

 We grew up on the High Plains thinking of those occasionally muddy pasture depressions as "buffalo wallows," "rainwater basins" or "mud holes." Turns out, scientists are learning those playas play a significant role recharging aquifers such as the Ogallala.

Luke Clayton

I recently wrote about how much there is to do in the outdoors this time of year. Well, last week, I took my own advice and brought my words to fruition by first joining goose guide Rick Hrncir with Family Affair Guide Service for a Conservation goose hunt south of Corsicana and later in the week, did some fishing down in east Texas. So, relax in your easy chair and let me recap both outings with you. Hopefully you can find time this week to get out and enjoy some late winter activities.

Winter Catfishin

Feb 13, 2015
Luke Clayton

The dead of winter is prime time for catching giant blue catfish. The listening area of High Plains Public Radio encompasses some of the very best catfishing waters in the country. In today's show, Luke highlights some of his favorite catfish waters and discusses a big catfish tournament down in Texas that is scheduled later this month, details at kingkatusa.com.   

Derek Ramsey/Wikimedia

A new report from the environmental group The Center for Food Safety says a Monsanto herbicide is to blame for a vast decline in the monarch butterfly population.

The Glyphosate herbicide, commonly known as Roundup, destroys weeds, including the common milkweed. And that’s a problem for monarch butterfly caterpillars, which only eat the plant.

As milkweed has disappeared from Midwest farms, there’s been a steady decline in the number of monarchs overwintering in Mexico.

Orchids 101

Feb 11, 2015

Growing your own orchids can be challenging unless you plan ahead and consider investing some time in learning what makes these tropical flowers so special to so many floral fans.  Today we'll talk about air, water, light, and growing mediums.


Kyle Dillard, a Milnesand, NM, rancher is taking advantage of an NRCS program. He's a cow/calf man in eastern New Mexico - right in the middle of a large Lesser Prairie-Chicken population.


No-till farming is a practice where plant material is left to shield the soil and to decay.  A process that produces valuable nutrients.  It also increases production and water content in soil, and requires fewer input costs says Scott Ravenkamp.  He’s a farmer from the eastern Colorado town of Hugo. 

This report comes from Kansas AgLand.

Lance Feikert no-till farms near Bucklin, Kansas, southeast of Dodge City.  He estimates only about one-fourth of the land around him is no-till.