By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Dodging ducks!!!
Marsh Musings
Dam Witt

Have you been through the Bottoms in the past few months? Ducks and geese are dodging heavy equipment that is doing some amazing work. 

Great strides are being made for the present and future of the Bottoms. It takes a significant amount of time, money, skill, and careful planning to preserve and protect this wonderful wetland. You will see a state truck zipping around the roads with a very serious young man at the wheel. Area Wildlife Manager Jason Wagner keeps his thumb and mind on the projects that are occurring as we speak. Kim and Gene Schneweis are doing lots of work to make things happen. The contractors are skilled and dedicated to making the Bottoms the best they can be.

I asked Jason Wagner for a list of projects and am amazed at the scope and complexity of these jobs. I will share some of them with you:

Here is his report:

In the past couple of years we have:

Removed all the silt in the north hub.

Replaced 13 electric pumps.

Replaced the two propane engines that run the large pumps on the east side.

Replaced or repaired multiple water control structures that were failing.

Replaced the drop structure west of the campground that is the final step in getting water to the Bottoms.

Replaced 10 water control gates that were no longer functioning as designed.

Expanded the campground and added a vault toilet facility.

Replaced the vault toilet at the headquarters.

Constructed a new office and shop and upgraded the headquarters area.

Acquired some new equipment (tractor, disc, UTVs, and a marsh master to battle cattails and phragmites.

Removed silt along the ditches to help with water management.

Cleared the cattails out of pool 4A, 3A and 3B. About 3.500 acres have been cleared.

Rebuilt the island blinds in multiple pools to increase hunter access and expand wildlife habitat in those pools.

Plant at least 200 acres of food plots for waterfowl.

Plant 200-400 acres of food plots for upland game.

Burn over 1,000 acres annually if weather permits.

Working very hard to remove invasive red cedars and honey locust.

Replacing old boundary fences and signs.

Added 140 acres to the wildlife area that is now open to the public.

Initiated silt removal in the inlet canal.

Adding two large capacity pumps in the west hub will improve water management in pools 2 and 5 in the next month.

Replacing walkways to improve hunter access.

Replacing the kiosks to improve the aesthetics of the Bottoms.

Starting silt removal in the east hub started last week

The old goose pens are going to be getting a facelift and will be utilized as a special draw hunt for youth.

 As you can see, a significant amount of money is required for these projects. Most of the funds come from a $6 million Pittman Robertson Act grant. Most of that has been spent or earmarked for current projects. Ducks Unlimited went through a “Bring Back the Bottoms” program that generated about $600,000 dollars. The beauty of that project is that the funds will be matched with Pittman Robertson money to bring a total of $2 million to fill in the shortfalls of the original grant. The Pittman Robertson Act is an excise tax on guns, ammunition, and some sporting goods. These funds are collected by the government and distributed back to the states at a 3-1 match based on hunting license sales. For every dollar the state contributes, Pittman Robertson kicks in $3. The state contributes funds from hunting licenses and permit sales. Aside from the big grant money, there is a $200,000 operations and maintenance budget for day-to-day operations. It is transparent and supported by every organization and person interested in hunting and habitat preservation.  

Jason Wagner

Jason Wagner is the public land manager for the Bottoms. I asked him to give me a biographical thumbnail of his career. Here is his description of himself. All I can do is share it with you and be grateful for his ingenuity, diligence and dedication to the Bottoms. 

“I grew up in Otis, where I fell in love with the outdoors specifically hunting, fishing and trapping. I graduated from Otis Bison High School in 2001 and then went to Fort Hays State University. I graduated in 2005 with a B.S. degree in biology with emphasis in wildlife and fisheries. After college, I was hired by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. and worked on public lands in the desert mountains of West Texas. I then changed positions and became a district biologist. I advanced to the lead biologist for the Trans-Pecos district of Texas Parks and Wildlife. I spent eight years down there working in a very unique ecosystem with incredible wildlife like desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, pronghorn, elk, scaled quail and mountain lions. I managed to attend Sul Ross State University while working full time and obtained a M.S. degree in natural resource management.

“In 2013, I had an opportunity to join the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks as an area biologist out of Hays. It was great to come home, and I worked there for 3 ½  years. When Karl Grover retired in 2017, I had the opportunity to apply and be chosen as the public land manager at the Bottoms.

“My wife Julie, two daughters, Jaylie and Kinsley, and I live on a small hobby farm by Otis. As you all know, I am still a passionate outdoorsman and enjoy spending time outside with my friends and family.” 

I hope that all you that read these musings now have a better understanding of how the Cheyenne Bottoms works, and how precious these people are that spend everyday making it the best they can for all of us – and especially for the wildlife they support. We are very lucky to have them watching over the Bottoms.

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