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Zinke sworn in as Secretary of Interior

 

From the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance

 

On March 1, U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke was officially sworn in as the 52nd Secretary of the Interior. The department oversees nearly 20 percent of all lands in the U.S., including Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A public lands advocate, hunter and conservationist from Montana, Zinke took immediate action, issuing a pair of secretarial orders to expand access to public lands and increase hunting opportunities nationwide.

 

The first order, overturned a rule pushed through on Jan. 19, the final day of the Obama Administration, banning lead ammunition and fishing tackle on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands.

 

The second action directed federal agencies identify areas where public hunting and fishing opportunities can be expanded. The order stated:

 

“President Theodore Roosevelt loved the outdoors, vigorously hunted wildlife, and developed a uniquely American conservation ethos. Executive Order 13442 built upon President Roosevelt’s conservation legacy and directed Federal agencies, including the Department of the Interior, to facilitate the expansion and enhancement of hunting opportunities and management of game species and their habitat.

 

As a servant of the American people, the Department will continue to strengthen President Roosevelt’s conservation stewardship legacy through this Order by seeking to expand recreational and conservation opportunities for all Americans.”

 

“Representative Zinke’s background and support for hunting and our vast public lands was on full display,” said Evan Heusinkveld, Sportsmen’s Alliance president and CEO. “These orders, and the renewed sense of support coming from the top of the Department of Interior are a welcome relief for sportsmen and women who believe that hunting, fishing and recreational access to our public lands and waters are critical for the future of conservation efforts.”

Listen to the animals at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center

 

Bioacoustics: chirps, whistles, croaks and clicks; sounds that combine in an animal opera of high drama for eavesdropping scientists. Discover what animals are saying during the free program, “Listening to Animals,” on Sunday, March 12 at 2 p.m. at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center in Great Bend.

 

Mark Nolen, professor of biology at Hutchinson Community College, will share information on the up-and-coming field of biology called bioacoustics – the study of animal communication and sound. Nolen will explain how studying the sounds animals use to communicate provides a window into animal worlds and information on their social interactions.

 

Apart from listening to a choir of interesting animal sounds, participants will learn how knowledge of bioacoustics in our environment can enrich our experience in nature and add a new dimension to the scientific understanding of biology and ecology.

 

“Listening To Animals” will be a kickoff to the KWEC’s Cheyenne Bottoms FrogWatch year. FrogWatch is a citizen science program administered by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that enlists volunteers to monitor local frog and toad populations by listening for their calls. KWEC staff will provide training and resources to volunteers so they can identify local frogs and toads throughout the breeding season at Cheyenne Bottoms. Attendees of the March 12 program do not have to participate in FrogWatch, however information about FrogWatch will be available.

 

To participate in FrogWatch, call the KWEC at (877) 243-9268.

Aerial surveys to document Lesser Prairie-chicken population trends

 

Aerial surveys to count Lesser Prairie-chickens will begin March 16 and run through mid-May over five states containing Lesser Prairie-chicken habitat. The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) conducts the surveys each spring when the birds gather at traditional leks, or dancing grounds. As part of the Lesser Prairie–chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan, the surveys are designed to document population trends and determine how birds are responding to the plan’s management strategies. The surveys will be conducted by helicopter in locations chosen randomly within Lesser Prairie-chicken range, which is part of the methodology strategy. In previous years, some of the fly paths prompted calls, which is why WAFWA is getting the word out about the start of aerial survey work.

The range-wide plan is a collaborative effort of WAFWA and the state wildlife agencies of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. It was developed to ensure conservation of the Lesser Prairie-chicken with voluntary cooperation of landowners and industry. The plan allows agriculture producers and industry to continue operations while reducing impacts to the bird and its grassland habitat.

“We’ve established a consistent methodology for these aerial surveys, working closely with the wildlife agencies of each of the states involved,” explained Roger Wolfe, WAFWA’s Lesser Prairie-chicken Program Manager. “We’re documenting population trends over time that will allow us to see how various management strategies for the bird are working on the ground.”

Results from this year’s surveys will be available on July 1 via www.wafwa.org.

On your mark, get set, gobble

 

Spring turkey season is about to kick off and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism knows the last thing you want to worry about is where you’ll be able to hunt this year. You don’t need to resort to begging, or even paying – KDWPT has nearly 275,000 acres open to the public for spring turkey hunting this year, and access is offered free of charge. It’s all at your fingertips in the 2017 Spring Turkey Hunting Atlas.

 

Available online now at ksoutdoors.com, and soon to be in print wherever licenses are sold, the 2017 Spring Turkey Hunting Atlas provides the locations of Walk-in Hunting Access (WIHA) areas, as well as state and federal public lands open to spring turkey hunting. Grab a paper copy for the truck, download a PDF (ksoutdoors.com) to your home computer, or download the files directly onto your Garmin GPS unit, and Android and iOS devices that can be used with Google Earth.

 

The 2017 spring turkey season starts with the youth/disabled season April 1-11, followed by the archery season April 3-11, and regular firearm (any legal equipment) season April 12-May 31. Spring turkey permits for Units 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 are available at ksoutdoors.com and at any license vendor, and hunters who have a spring turkey permit may also purchase a second turkey game tag. Buy the spring turkey permit combo by March 31 and save $7.50. A valid Kansas hunting license is required of all residents age 16 through 74 and all nonresidents, except persons hunting on their own land.

 

To purchase your turkey permit and optional additional game tag today, visit ksoutdoors.com/License-Permits.

 

“Where to hunt” is taken care of with the atlas. Now all you have to worry about is “When to hunt.”

Fall hunting seasons to be voted on March 23

 

The Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission will conduct its March public meeting on Thursday, March 23, 2017 in Topeka at the Capitol Plaza Hotel, Emerald Rooms I and II, 1717 SW Topeka Blvd. The afternoon session will begin at 1 p.m. and recess at 5 p.m. The evening session will convene at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend both sessions and time will be set aside for public comment at the beginning of each for discussion of non-agenda items.

 

The afternoon session will begin with a report on the agency and state fiscal status and an update on the 2017 Kansas Legislative Session. The General Discussion portion of the meeting will include recognition of Tuttle Creek State Park’s Blue Chip Award, a Blue Cross Blue Shield parks support update, and an overview of the agency’s new consolidated licensing/reservation system.

 

The Workshop Session will include reviews of webless migratory bird and waterfowl season recommendations, as well as threatened and endangered species regulations. Regulations concerning hunting on Glen Elder and Marion wildlife areas and the deer season dates on Fort Riley Military Reservation will also be discussed.

 

The evening portion of the meeting will convene at 6:30 p.m. for the Public Hearing. Commissioners will hear proposals for, and vote on, the 2017 fall seasons for antelope, elk, turkey and deer. Deer permit allocations will be set by Secretary’s Orders.

 

If necessary, the commission will reconvene at the same location at 9 a.m., March 24, to complete any unfinished business. Information about the Commission, as well as the March 23 meeting agenda and briefing book, can be downloaded at ksoutdoors.com/KDWPT-Info/Commission/Upcoming-Commission-Meetings.

 

Live video and audio streaming of the March 23 meeting will be available at ksoutdoors.com. If notified in advance, the department will have an interpreter available for the hearing impaired. To request an interpreter, call the Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at 1-800-432-0698. Any individual with a disability may request other accommodations by contacting the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission secretary at (620) 672-5911.

 

The next Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commission meeting is scheduled for April 20, 2017, at the KDWPT Headquarters, 512 SE 25th Ave., in Pratt.

Kansas boat taxes affordable

 

If you’re a Kansas boat owner or are thinking of buying a boat, you should know that property taxes on recreational boats have gone down as much as 75 percent since 2013. Before that, Kansas boat owners paid property taxes based on an assessed value that was 30 percent of the boat’s market worth. So if you owned a $30,000 boat, the assessed value was $9,000, and depending on the mill levee in the county you lived in, you could have paid more than $1,000 in annual property taxes.

 

Boats must be registered with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) to operate on public waters, and that registration fee is just $32.50 for three years. Since counties use KDWPT’s registration lists to assess property taxes, many Kansans opted to register their boats in neighboring states where the property taxes were much less. In fact, according to the Oklahoma Department of Conservation, more than 5,000 Kansas boats were registered there in 2013.

 

Reducing the tax rate on Kansas boats required an amendment to the state’s constitution, and the Kansas legislature put that question on the ballot in November 2012. Voters approved the amendment and a new law took effect in 2013, reducing the assessment rate in phases – 11.5 percent in 2014 to 5 percent in 2015 where it remains.

 

The result has been a significant reduction in property taxes on boats. Take that $30,000 boat for example. If you own that boat in Pratt County, where the mill levee is 120, you’ll pay just $180 annually.

 

To get the word out, KDWPT began a campaign titled: “Own It Here, Use It Here, Register It Here.” The idea is to encourage Kansas boat owners to voluntarily register their boats locally, but KDWPT law enforcement officers will also step up enforcement of the law, which requires boats to be registered in the state of principal use. Boat registration fees fund boater education programs, construction and enhancement of boat access facilities, as well as other recreational boating programs. And Kansas counties depend on property taxes to fund county services.

 

Remember: Own It Here, Use It Here, Register It Here.

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant to benefit Lesser Prairie-chickens

 

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has awarded a grant to the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) to restore lesser prairie-chicken habitat. The $197,309.25 grant is funded through NFWF’s ConocoPhillips SPIRIT of Conservation and Innovation Program.

 

“We appreciate our partnership with NFWF and ConocoPhillips and look forward to applying these funds as we continue to implement the Lesser Prairie-chicken Rangewide Plan,” said Alexa Sandoval, Director of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and Chairman of the Lesser Prairie-chicken Initiative Council. “Restoration work is key to the long-term survival of the bird and this grant will contribute to the combined efforts to keep the bird off the endangered species list.”

 

The bird was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2014, but was de-listed in 2016 after a federal judge ruled on a lawsuit and vacated the listing. The judge ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not thoroughly consider active conservation efforts in making the listing decision, namely the activities associated with WAFWA’s Lesser Prairie-chicken Rangewide Plan. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently reviewing the status of the lesser prairie-chicken across its five-state range to determine whether it should be listed again.

 

The NFWF grant will fund restoration work on up to 1,000 acres of private land that will connect larger fragmented pieces of prairie-chicken habitat. Good habitat must be contiguous to benefit lesser prairie-chickens.

 

“The rangewide plan calls for us to focus our efforts as strategically as possible,” said Bill Van Pelt, WAFWA Grassland Coordinator. “By connecting good bird habitat, more acreage will be available for the birds to thrive.”

 

The rangewide plan is a collaborative effort of WAFWA and the state wildlife agencies of Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. It was developed to ensure conservation of the lesser prairie-chicken by providing a mechanism for voluntary cooperation by landowners and industry, and improving coordination between state and federal conservation agencies. Funding for WAFWA’s conservation efforts comes from voluntary mitigation payments by industry partners that are enrolled in the plan, along with grants from partners like NFWF. The plan allows agriculture producers and industry to continue operations while reducing impacts to the bird and its grassland habitat.

 

For more info on NFWF’s ConocoPhillips SPIRIT of Conservation and Innovation Program, visit www.nfwf.org/spirit/Pages/home.aspx

Light Goose Conservation Order open now

 

Waterfowl hunting addicts may be having withdrawals since the duck seasons closed on Jan. 29 and regular goose seasons closed Feb. 12. But they will find temporary relief in the Light Goose Conservation Order, which is open Feb. 13-April 30, 2017. In an effort to reduce the population of snow and Ross’ geese, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) authorized this special hunting season for light geese.

 

To increase hunter success, the conservation order authorizes hunting methods not allowed during the regular seasons, including the use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns. Extended shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. And there is no daily bag or possession limits.

 

The conservation order was first established in 1999 when it was determined that the population of light geese had increased more than 300 percent since the mid-1970s. Extraordinary numbers of geese have denuded portions of their fragile tundra breeding habitat in the arctic, which may take decades to recover. And the damage is impacting other bird species that nest there, including semi-palmated sandpipers and red-necked phalaropes.

 

For more information on this season, visit www.ksoutdoors.com and click on “Hunting/When to Hunt/Migratory Birds.”

Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism gets new licensing system

 

In late February, the computer license sales and reservation system the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) has used for many years will be no more. A new and improved system, provided by Active Network, will go into full operation. Active Network has provided the software and point-of-sale hardware for 11 years that allowed KDWPT to accept campsite and cabin reservations and sell licenses online, maintaining all license records electronically. That contract expired and a new contract, with some changes, is now in place.

 

License buyers and campers won’t notice a big difference; however, the current license sales system will shut down at 9:45 p.m. on Feb. 18, and the new system will be online at 8 a.m. on Feb. 22. No license or permit sales will be available through the system for roughly three days. The campsite and cabin reservation system will shut down at 12:01 a.m., Feb. 20 and go back online at 6 p.m., Feb. 21.

 

While it may be inconvenient for anyone who tries to buy a license or make a reservation during the downtime, this time is important to allow data to be transferred, configurations to be completed and to ensure everything is working properly before going live. The new system will retain the KDWPT numbers of everyone who purchased a hunting or fishing license in the old system, and there will be no changes in pricing.

 

The new system will provide some advantages to users, including allowing customers to purchase hunting and fishing licenses at the same time they make camping or cabin reservations. It will allow customers to reprint licenses within 48 hours if they were unable to print during the transaction. Other features include allowing customers to browse available licenses and permits before they make a purchase, buy licenses or permits for multiple years when available (such as buying a 2017 hunting license and a 2016 HIP stamp) and logging in with an email address to edit personal information on record such as address and phone number.

 

One significant change with the new system involves permits that have carcass tags attached, such as deer, turkey, elk, and antelope, which could have been purchased from home and printed out on a desktop printer under the old system. This caused many issues for Law Enforcement since there was no way to prohibit someone from printing multiple carcass tags with one permit. In the new system, permits with carcass tags will have to be purchased and issued through a license agent or over the phone, in which case the permit/carcass tag will be mailed to the customer.

Tuttle Creek State Park selected for BlueCHIP award

 

Tuttle Creek State Park near Manhattan was recently chosen to receive a $2,500 BlueCHIP Award by BlueCross BlueShield of Kansas (BCBSKS) and the Kansas Recreation and Parks Association (KRPA). BlueCHIP Awards are issued through a community health improvement program created seven years ago by KRPA and BCBSKS to recognize and reward Kansas communities that encourage and support healthy lifestyles through programs, initiatives, policies and/or community-wide events.

 

In addition to Tuttle Creek State Park, communities recognized this year include Baldwin City, Derby, City of Lindsborg, Shawnee County – Topeka, and Wellington. Each received $2,500 to assist with continued efforts to improve the health of their communities. The awards were presented at the 2017 KRPA Annual Conference and Trade Show in Manhattan.

 

According to Tuttle Creek State Park manager Todd Lovin, the BlueChip award will be used to purchase additional canoes, kayaks and paddling equipment. The state park sponsors several floats on the Kansas River each year, and boats and equipment are made available to those who don’t have their own.

 

Tuttle Creek State Park includes four units (River Pond, Fancy Creek, Cedar Ridge and Randolph) around Tuttle Creek Reservoir. In addition to a swimming beach, boat ramps, courtesy docks and dump stations, the park offers 159 water/electric campsites, eight electric/water/sewer campsites, 24 electric-only campsites, 500 primitive campsites and 11 rental cabins. Activities offered include hiking, biking and equestrian trails; disc golf; volleyball; horseshoes; a state-of-the-art shooting range; and archery range. Learn more about Tuttle Creek State Park at www.ksoutdoors.com or call the park office at 785-539-7941.