MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - Bravo, Governor Brownback! I disagree with our Republican governor on many things -- the elimination of funding for the arts, the squeeze on education, the obstacles to voting (more on those policies in a future column).
But I applaud his stance on the Flint Hills. The Governor is using the power of his office to protect the Flint Hills and its highly productive but endangered ecosystem, the tall grass prairie.
During her time in office, Gov. Sebelius protected a small part of the Flint Hills (including Geary and Riley Counties) from wind development, and Governor Parkinson continued her policy. Sebelius called the off-limits area "the Heart of the Flint Hills." On May 6, 2011, Governor Brownback doubled the protected area, from 4673 to 10,895 square miles, an expanse now stretching to the Oklahoma border. He calls his no-go zone the "Tallgrass Heartland." It is not protected by law -- only by his (like Sebelius's and Parkinson's) high-profile request for voluntary cooperation. Such a gubernatorial call is a powerful shield, however, as life can be miserable for utilities or developers on the wrong side of the state.