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Geese dying of avian flu at Bottoms
Marsh Musings
Snow geese at the Bottoms

We have lots of snow geese dying in the Bottoms and elsewhere apparently from Avian Flu. It is a viral disease that infects wild birds and domestic poultry. According to the CDC report of March 17, there have been human infections – with bird flu variations (HPAI) A(H5N1) – associated with poultry farms. It’s a bit grim.

 The Barton County Zoning /Planning Committee met Thursday, Dec 7. Acciona presented their plan for a monster solar panel program right on the Cheyenne Bottoms. They admitted that they didn’t know about the Bottoms when the company acquired the rights to the project. I got to spend a morning with Mr. Stratton and Mr. Santos a couple of weeks ago for a tour of the Bottoms. They are decent, honest people and admitted that they didn’t know anything about our marsh, flyway, and endangered birds before acquiring the rights to this location and project. 

I think they have the integrity to move this project to a better location in Barton County that protects the marsh flyway and birds. About 1,500 people have signed a petition in protest of this location. Everyone agrees that a tornado or big wind would spread toxic debris and glass shards across the Bottoms and make it toxic and off-limits to students from Kansas Wetlands Education Center and the birds. It would be impossible to clean the marsh so it is safe. I am stupefied that Fort Hays State and the Nature Conservancy haven’t gone viral protesting this location. 

There is probably some money in the project that we aren’t privy to. I am also concerned that Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, which is mandated to manage the Bottoms for the “people of the State of Kansas” who OWN the Bottoms according to THEIR brochure doesn’t want to speak to the project until they are presented with a plan. I think they have a clear responsibility as managers of the Bottoms to protect it at all costs, at all times, whether a project has been presented or not. 

It is their designated job to protect this sacred ground as stated in their own words. Go to KWEC and get the brochures on the Bottoms created by KDWP. They have an obligation to the citizens of Kansas. I hope they take it seriously. I admire Brad Loveless,  but he is retiring soon and may not have the stomach for this conflict. 

I wrote a note to every senator in the state of Kansas and asked them to help us protect this land and flyway. I also sent one to the Governor. This is my third communication to her. Kansas has an obligation to the birds of the world who have used this flyway and marsh forever to be able to complete their migration each spring and fall. There are unlimited locations in Barton County to move this project to a place that wouldn’t interfere with the birds.

 I Hope Acciona and Mr. Stratton et al have the huztpa to move this project. I can’t imagine that our county commissioners would let it happen. I think the zoning/planning committee will place a wide zone of protection around this marsh and flyway and require precise vetting by KDWP. Harvey County made a big decision to limit wind and solar. I am dead certain that a vote of the people would be overwhelmingly in favor of protecting this sacred place. 

There would be no change in the revenue to the county if this project were placed 10 miles away – but a few landowners would be unhappy. Money is a strange thing, and overwhelms common sense and logic not infrequently. I certainly hope that it won’t affect our county leaders. Every citizen has to be involved in this decision. Take a stand and speak out to our governor, senators, representatives, and county commissioners. We owe it to the birds. The world expects us to protect this marsh and flyway. Don’t disappoint them.

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