HPPR Environment

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

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

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.

J.N. Stuart/Flickr Commons

The lack of fire as a management tool on the Great Plains has permitted indigenous and foreign woody plants to encroach on prairie grasslands, reducing Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitat. Through the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative, NRCS can help producers and range managers remove woody invasive species – through burning, cutting and spraying. We tell one Oklahoma Panhandle rancher's experience participating in the NRCS initiative.


Jordan Shearer
Beaver Co. Rancher
Slapout, OK


Feral hogs are expanding their range, and now reside in more than 40 states.  They cause about $1.5 billion in damage every year reports Kansas Agland.

Charlie Lee is a wildlife management for Kansas State University Research and Extension.  He says the pigs damage crops, can kill young livestock and wildlife, destroy property, damage plant communities, and can carry diseases that threaten livestock.

That’s why the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, wants to reduce feral hog damage on a national level.


This week, Luke discusses some of his views on hunting on HIGH PLAINS OUTDOORS. It's important for hunters to show respect for the animals and birds that they hunt. Granted, wild hogs are a problem for many in the south and southeast but swine, for many decades have been a staple food source. Even though wild hogs present problems to landowners, they are still animals and, as wild hogs, game animals. They should be treated with respect by hunters.

Houseplant Basics

Jan 28, 2015

A look at some of the most popular and easiest houseplants to keep you in greenery for the cold season.  Skip looks at the four basics needs of a healthy houseplant, and how to create a suitable environment in often overheated winter homes. 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Healthy rangelands help the long-term sustainability of the landowner and the Lesser Prairie-Chicken.

Practices that bolster the bird's habitat  are also good for ranching, and can lead to improved rangeland health. NRCS provides technical and cost-assistance for grazing management programs under the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative.


Christian Hagen
Science Advisor
NRCS LePC Initiative
Bend, OR

Jon Ungerer
Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative Coordinator
Marysville, KS

There’s a new study that says antibiotics used to treat livestock and antibiotic-resistant genes that pose a threat to humans can be carried by the wind from large livestock operations reports Politico.

Researchers at the Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University say they found six veterinary antibiotics in dust samples downwind from 10 large beef cattle feedlots in Texas. 


The Kansas Aqueduct Committee recently met in Salina to discuss the viability of taking water out of the Missouri river and diverting across the state to Western Kansas.  This report comes from Kansas Agland.

The conversation flowed smoothly until Committee member Tim Rhodd, expressed disapproval of the concrete-lined ditch.  Rhodd is the chairman of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska.  He says the project will push his region into the same water crisis facing the western part of the state. 

Luke Clayton

"What's for supper tonight, Luke?"    Give me twenty minutes and we will be eating gumbo!

This week, Luke tells divulges his quick and easy method of making  "Instant Gumbo"!

Begin cooking a couple gallons of gumbo stock which contains all the baiscs, ie.  tomaotes, okra, celery, bell pepper and onion. This can be preserved by canning in quart jars or freezing in quart freezer bags.


Bonsai is an ancient, living art form that never is completed.  It requires focus, balance, and composition.  Bonsai live for a hundred years, so many times plants are passed from one generation to the next.  Bonsai are never centered, but always placed to one side or another.  The plants are trained to an asymmetrical balance. 

This kind of gardening teaches patience, introduces the glories of solitude, and opens the mind to thoughts about size and scale, and the importance of a single leaf or action.


Thank goodness for houseplants. Without them, gardeners might have a hard time making it through the hard times of winter.  Jade is a natural-born houseplant perfect for busy people who want a bit of winter greenery, but don’t want to take on a major houseplant commitment.  

Lori Potter / Kearney Hub

The NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program targets funds to priority resource concerns such as a lack of wildlife habitat, erosion control, water quantity, and water quality. Partners, like water conservation management districts, submit proposals to help producers install and maintain conservation activities in select project areas. These proposals often included innovative or experimental approaches.

Luke Clayton

Hello Folks!

The last buck of the season brought a big surprise to this ole boy.  I was set up in my ground blind, the last day of deer season, the last hours of the day, when movement caught my eye.  And, there was a big ole tom bobcat.  I thought he'd just look around, and then go on his way, but the rascal headed right for the door of my blind.  He was about six feet away when I shut the door.  There simply was not enough room for ole Luke and that cat in the blind.

That really got me going!


Already, flu and pneumonia have been a factor in more than 500 deaths in Kansas reports KPR’s Bryan Thompson.

 People older than 64 or younger than five are being hit the hardest. The CDC is advising people with chronic conditions, pregnant women, senior citizens, and small children to take antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu, if they become infected. Dr. Mike Munger, at St. Luke’s South Primary Care, in Overland Park, says the drugs need to be taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms to minimize the severity of the flu.