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Beautiful birds and confusion
Dam Witt

I drove to Quivira Refuge last week. They have more water than we do at the Bottoms. There were some Colorado and Virginia birders that I got to meet and greet. Is it not amazing that we continue to attract out-of-state  birders even when the Bottoms are mostly dry? We are delighted to have them visit!

They were eager to see the Wetlands Education Center with all the displays for birders and the educational programs for school kids. They had big spotting scopes and were very excited to see Dunlins, Red-necked phalaropes, Snowy Plovers, and several members of the sandpiper family. There were also Black Terns, Avocets and Franklin Gulls around. I drove back through the Bottoms and saw some of the same birds enjoying some new mud. It was beautiful! I hope we get more rain so they can have more access to wet ground.  

I just don’t understand politics. I’ve not heard or seen any comment from Governor Laura Kelly, Secretary of Wildlife and Parks Brad Loveless, or the Wildlife Commissioners about the threat to the Bottoms from solar panels. If that toxic debris were spread over the Bottoms from a big wind or tornado there might not be enough money or time to restore it.

Fort Hays State has invested a ton of money and effort into creating one of the best educational centers anywhere that attracts people of all ages. They provide wonderful programs for most of the school kids in Barton County and the surrounding territory to have an unparalleled experience with one of the best marshes in the world. Why aren’t they standing up for the Bottoms to be protected? They have a huge investment that has given them the best profile and reputation possible. They are indebted to the Bottoms for their success. Is it just politics?  How can these people and the KDWP organization not be howling at the possibility of this marsh being damaged? Why hasn’t the Nature Conservancy made a statement? I would think that having the courage of your convictions would count for more than a political stance in response to some vague program.

I don’t recall ever seeing this type of political behavior. They can’t seem to grasp the difference between “location” and “solar panels” even though most everyone else in Kansas and the Spanish company gets it. I think this marsh and the migrating birds deserve much more respect. I’ve not dealt in politics, but if this is the best example of that process it needs to be revisited.

When politics makes you do things that you absolutely know are harmful or wrong there should be someplace in the political landscape where there is no foul for doing the right thing, even if it isn’t in perfect alignment with the political agenda. There should be a place for “right” to get a carve-out even though it isn’t in lockstep. I want very much for this marsh to exist in its pristine state until I can’t see to write about it anymore. 

I am certain that if the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was threatened with contamination from glass shards and toxic waste the Spanish people would mount a great resistance. It is exactly the same with our Cheyenne Bottoms in Kansas. Just don’t kill Whooping Cranes and don’t contaminate the Bottoms. Move it at least 10 miles. Don’t spoil our sacred place.

This has been an eye-opening event for us, the people of Kansas. I never expected politics to put the Bottoms in danger. We assumed that everyone in Kansas understood and respected the status of the Bottoms – especially our elected representatives. That turned out not to be true. This is a significant wake-up call. We can’t be asleep at the wheel anymore. We are obligated now to attend as many political and campaign events as possible and ask at every event about the candidates’ respect for our marsh.

I don’t think we ever had an administration that put politics above the survival of our marsh, but now that happened. We can’t allow the next administration and Secretary of Wildlife/Parks and Wildlife Commissioners and even the administration of Fort Hays to not confirm the safety of our marsh before their election. Thank goodness administrations come and go, but we must all participate in the political process now and demand protection for the Bottoms. 

Don’t ever get caught in this situation again. It was unthinkable that the Governor, Secretary of the Dept. of Wildlife/Parks, and the Board of Wildlife Commissioners would allow anything to harm the Bottoms. They have proved us wrong by muzzling their employees and the staff at the Wetlands Education Center, and Fort Hays State has joined right in. We the people will hopefully demand reverence and protection of the Cheyenne Bottoms before they ever again get elected or appointed. Fool us once ... not twice.



Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast. He can be reached at