HPPR Environment

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

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

Calendar Confusion

Jun 3, 2015

This spring's harvests of blooms and berries have really been a guessing game.  A bin-buster harvest of strawberries came at least a month earlier than usual, along with irises.  But normally plentiful peas and other cool-weather crops seem to playing a waiting game.  I have to place the blame on an on-again-off-again winter weather season, but what else is new in our corner of the world.

The Texas State Climatologist has declared the statewide drought effectively over. But, the main source of the Lone Star State's water supply hasn't recharged, and that's the aquifers. The biggest benefit of recent rains to the underground supply is less water is being pumped to the surface.

It takes a flood

May 29, 2015
Luke Clayton

This time last year, we were in the midst of a drought that seemed to be unending. Week after week, we watched our lake levels drop steadily. The outlook for ground nesting birds such as wild turkey and quail seemed bleak. Moisture is important for a good hatch and possibly even more necessary for the survival of young birds. Last year, there was very little ground cover in many areas to conceal newly hatched birds. Our stock ponds which often serve as private fishing hotspots were drying up. What a difference a couple of months make!


This week we'll look at the hows and whys of growing gourds, on both an ornamental or functional level.  Related to squash and cucumbers, few varieties are popular as edibles, but numerous types can serve in various ways.  Most of the work of producing gourds comes not with the growing but with how they are treated after the harvest.  Curing and cleaning are the first steps in a process that can produce bird houses, feeders, nifty containers, or art objects.

Recent rains might have pushed the drought out of our minds, but climate scientists say the hot, dry weather is a glimpse into the future, and Oklahoma is a good place to study what adaptations will work.


The past couple weeks have brought rain, rain, sorely needed rain.  It’s also saturated the ground and left some standing water.  That’s the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.  This report from KGOU.

Luke Clayton

Join Luke this week while he visits with Seth Vanover about the impact the fresh water from all the rain is having on catfishing.

Midwesterners rarely have the opportunity to hear the sound of the 17-year cicada, and this is the year. Some say it's annoying. Regardless of your assessment of the song, you won't get the chance again until 2032.


The big story from the U.S. Drought Monitor for our region is rain.  Recent rains are made large scale drought improvement across southwest and west central Kansas.  There’s a small area of severe drought in northwest Kansas where the recen rains haven’t been as substantial.  Oklahoma and Texas has experienced big improvements, but some residual dryness is evident.

Exceptional drought conditions have been completely eliminated from Texas and Oklahoma for the first time since July of 2012.

Courtesy Ben Wheeler/Pheasants Forever and Nebraska Game & Parks Commission

Dave Hilfterty grows dryland winter wheat and irrigated corn in Perkins County, Nebraska. Dave had a challenge that was perfect for Wetlands Reserve Program assistance. Amongst his five irrigation circles there's a lagoon, which he got tired of trying to farm through.

Now that we’re used to seeing huge spinning blades across the high plains, there may be a new visual icon on the horizon in the future – enormous tall narrow poles that simply quiver in the wind. This report from Wired. They’re called Vortex Bladeless. Their purpose is the same: turning breezes into kinetic energy that can be used as electricity. But, that’s where the similarity to bladed wind turbines ends. Instead of capturing wind energy with the circular motion of a propeller, The Vortex uses vorticity. That’s an aerodynamic effect that produces a pattern of vortices. Whirling air patterns that are the enemy of architects and engineers, could now be have new purpose in renewable energy.

Kitchen Gardens

May 13, 2015

This year I'm making some changes in my vegetable garden layout, and moving some of it closer to the kitchen door.  On the way, we'll look at a brief history of the term 'kitchen garden' and find out what things usually grow there.  

People from nine countries and seed librarians from across the country were busy sowing big ideas about tiny seeds during the first The International Seed Library Forum reports the Daily Yonder. The gathering was held in Tucson last week. The group shared ideas and inspiration for improving local access to diverse seeds. The conference also included discussion of climate change and the role agriculture diversity and seed saving play. Cary Fowler is an agricultural pioneer and a former executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. He says in the past circumstances were adapted for the crops we wants to grow using things like irrigation and pesticides. He says in the future we’ll have to adapt the plants themselves.

A Kansas-based study comparing results on almost 30 years of winter wheat trials across the state points researchers to say global warming will cut wheat yields. Wheat demand is expected to increase by 60 percent by 2050 to meet population demands. A lead author of the study says one way of adapting the world to warming temperatures maybe be to shift wheat farming more toward the poles.


Western Kansas is a semi-arid region, with yearly precipitation at 17-19 inches. Progressive farmers understand their biggest challenge is capturing and holding every drop of moisture they can. A group of Northwest Kansas producers meets regularly to discuss production practices. These growers are firm believers in no-till and planting cover crops whenever it's feasible. While some producers say cover crops unnecessarily sap moisture, members of Living Acres Network are more likely to say that the careful selection of a cover crop leaves residue that helps build the soil for better precipitation infiltration.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Scientists say oil and gas activity is probably responsible for the surge in earthquake activity in Oklahoma.  They call the phenomenon “induced seismicity.”  But, researchers are puzzled.  Oil and gas production is nothing new in the Sooner State, and why is there an increase in quakes in Oklahoma, or for that matter Texas, Colorado, and Kansas when it doesn’t seem to be happening in other major players like North Dakota?

Pond Boss

Just a matter of a few short months ago, many farm ponds and private fishing lakes were almost void of water, thanks to several years of sparse rainfall. I live a short distance from some old gravel pits that a few friends and I lease for fishing. I remember five or six years ago, I could launch a my 14-foot aluminum boat and use an electric trolling motor to push me to the very back of the farthest pond, a distance of at least a quarter mile. The fishing lease consists of several deeper pits that, during periods of normal rainfall, are connected by strips of shallow water.


Put some new colors in your garden by planting and growing purple asparagus.  This springtime taste treat is guaranteed to be as tasty as the traditional green varieties, and some say it's sweeter and more tender because it has a 20% higher natural sugar content.  Add to that the high levels of anthocyanins that give it the purple color and some great health benefits such as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous properties.  It's not readily available in stores, so you might as well listen to this week's show and learn to grow your own.

Mark Hilliard of Hale County, Texas, says, "This is cotton country. It's rare to find a pristine playa lake." He bought the native grassland on which the playa sits from family members, then protected the playa and a grassland buffer with a permanent Wetlands Reserve Easement. He couldn't be more happy with NRCS assistance removing sediment from the playa to improve its function and create bird habitat. NRCS conservationist Blake McLemore discusses what's involved in negotiating a perpetual easement.

Pam Zubeck / Colorado Springs Independent

Pam Zubeck remembers when the Arkansas River flowed every day outside Garden City, Kansas.  Zubeck writes of old-timers recounting about a river so wide, you had to board a ferry to cross in the Colorado Springs Independent.  High School kids used to pedal their bikes to the river to check fishing lines in the summer. 

Now, where there was once a river, there's a dry riverbed- a mecca for dirt bikers and four wheels.  It’s also home to water guzzling tamarisks. 

Luke Clayton

Lake Fork guide Seth Vanover eased his comfortable guide boat up to a stick up in the back of a cove and secured the craft with a looped bow rope. The area had been deluged with a heavy rain the night before and the lake was on a welcome rise. We were fishing during the calm between two spring thunderstorms. The rising water had undulated shoreline grass introducing worms, crawfish and all sorts of insects into the food chain. This was classis text book spring time catfish waters if ever I’d seen them!

A Western Kansas Highway Worth Your Time & Travel

Apr 30, 2015
Kansas Public Radio

Warmer weather brings out the wanderlust in many of us. Something about springtime can create a desire to get outside, hit the road and see something new. Commentator Rex Buchanan has been up and down a highway in western Kansas that he says is worth your time and travel.

Commentator Rex Buchanan is the director of the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas and a regular contributor to Kansas Public Radio.


One of the major markets for mint occurs during the Kentucky Derby, when mint juleps are served up to anyone with a desire to taste them and toast the famous horseracing event.  But the sharp taste and smell of mint makes it a major player not only at the racetrack, but in herb gardens, gourmet kitchens, and apothocary shops throughout the world.  This week we'll investigate the many kinds of mint, and issue some well-intentioned warnings about planting it, in a way that will allow it to become a highlight and not a nightmare in your garden.   

William C. Johnson

McPherson County landowner Dale Schmidt bought ground he intended to farm, but often it was too wet to plant, or to harvest. He's pleased he enrolled the land as a perpetual wetland easement. Schmidt and his NRCS District Conservationist Blake McLemore discuss the improvements made to the parcel.

If you see smoke on the horizon, it could be deliberate. Some farmers burn their fields to get rid of plants that are there, and help those that are coming up.

Sharks in Kansas

Apr 26, 2015

Sharks swimming in Kansas waters? Looking for dorsal fins cutting through waters where I fish, wade, and swim gives me goose bumps. I’d already spent too much time focusing on such worries as a teenage body surfer in Huntington Beach, California.


Howdy Folks!

I tell you what, I have just had a conversation with Milo Hanson about the day he shot his world record whitetail buck.  I feel like I've just been on the set of The Red Green Show.

Milo is from Biggar, Saskatchewan.  He tells the story of that day better than any radio theater.  Pour yourself a cup of coffee, lean back, and listen to Milo.

Last week brought some severe weather to the region. A video from social media shows the twister on Thursday in the Texas Panhandle. There were 11 tornado reports submitted to the National Weather Service on Thursday afternoon. Four in the Texas Panhandle and far western Oklahoma.


The Oklahoma state seismologist said disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry are ‘very likely’ responsible for the recent surge of earthquakes in Oklahoma at the recent Oklahoma Geological Survey.  This report is from State Impact Oklahoma.

Austin Holland says the rates and trends in seismicity are very unlikely to represent a naturally occurring process in a joint statement with agency interim director Richard D Andrews.

The agency’s acknowledgement follows years of peer-reviewed research linking disposal wells and earthquakes.


A new sensation is sweeping the nation of niche gardeners, and  this week's show looks at the popularity of fairy gardens. We'll cover the background of fairies and why people decided to open their homes and gardens to them.  We'll also look at some basics of plant selection and care of these minature landscapes.