BARTON COUNTY — At the state Kansas Department of Parks, Wildlife and Tourism commission meeting held Thursday at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, Manuel Torres, Region 3 Public Lands supervisor, presented recommendations for new signs at Cheyenne Bottoms.
The proposal included entrance signs, interpretive signs and directional signs. They also recommended pullouts, or highway improvements near the Kansas Wetlands Education Center to safely slow down and exit Highway 156.
Although there are currently two entrance signs, “we need something more eye catching,” said Torres. “To tell the story of Cheyenne Bottoms of one of the world’s most important wetlands,” interpretive signs are needed. Colors such as brown and gold will be used to tie into the Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway.
The directional signs will explain navigation through the Bottoms. Also, pulloff signs are needed.
Although the plan has not yet been funded, Torres is optimistic that it will happen. “How can we get money flowing through surrounding communities?” Torres asked.
Having more tourists find Cheyenne Bottoms and KWEC would benefit the surrounding communities and KDPWT, he said.
Torres was part of a committee consisting of Cris Collier, Karl Grover, Christina Hayes, Kelli Hilliard, Robert Penner and Curtis Wolf.
Great Bend resident Dr. Roger Marshall was recently named a commissioner to the board.
“It’s a great chance to give back,” said Dr. Marshall. “I love the outdoors. I grew up hunting, fishing and boating.
“Eco-tourism is great,” he said. “I’ve got my ear to the ground for Great Bend.”
The commission also heard a report on feral swine control in Kansas by Curran Salter, USDA wildlife biologist.
“The feral swine population is rising exponentially,” Salter said. “In 2004, there were feral swine in 45 states. The expansion is due to illegal dislocation by humans. They are intentionally released for sport hunting.”
“Hunting has never been shown to be adequate population control,” said Salter. The swine spread pseudorabies and swine brucellosis to domestic livestock, can quickly cause huge amounts of agricultural damage as well as to ground nesting birds.
“Feral pigs are highly adaptive,” said Salter. “There is no environment in which they cannot exist and thrive.”
Since 2006, close to 3,000 pigs have been killed.
“Kansas is the only state not to just control but to eradicate pigs from a large area,” he said. “We’re miles and miles ahead of other states.”
It is against the law to import feral pigs.
“We need to make the laws stronger,” said Salter. “We need to strictly enforce the laws.”
He guesses that there are less than 1,000 feral pigs left in the state. “We need continued maintenance,” the biologist said.
The meeting lasted a full day, with a tour of Cheyenne Bottoms at 9 a.m., department reports at 1:30 p.m., and public hearing concerning falconry permits beginning at 7 p.m. The commission meets six times per year.