The biggest misconception about Cheyenne Bottoms is thinking it is funded by tax dollars, Area Wildlife Manager Jason Wagner said. In reality, the wildlife area is “100 percent fee-funded.”
Fees come from hunting licenses, trapping licenses, deer permits, turkey permits, etc., and from a portion of the federal excise tax on ammunition and sporting arms.
Wagner spoke this week at the Great Bend Noon Kiwanis meeting. His message on funding was one his predecessor, Karl Grover, had shared with the group in the past. Grover retired last spring after 30 years of employment at Cheyenne Bottoms.
With the exception of occasional Kansas Department of Transportation funds for roads, Wagner said, “we are 100 percent funded by the primary people that use Cheyenne Bottoms, and that’s the hunters themselves.”
Wagner points this out any time he is asked why the state does not develop trails for hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders and ATV enthusiasts at Cheyenne Bottoms.
“We would actually lose our funding if we did that,” he said.
Approximately 13,000 acres of the wildlife area are open to hunting. That includes a large group of bullfrog giggers, and fur harvesters seeking muskrats, minks, raccoons and bobcats.
The area is also popular for bird watching, thanks to the diversity of species that stop at the marsh. “Forty-five percent of migrating birds in North America will stop there,” Wagner said.
Hunters and birders often come from other states or from other parts of Kansas, so they are likely to spend one or more nights in the area. When the hunting is good area motels are filled, Wagner noted. “It’s a very important place to the local community, and I’m very aware of that.”
He noted that the Kansas Wetlands Education Center has taken over most of the responsibility for education outreach at the wetlands, providing more time for the staff at the wildlife area to focus on land management.
What to expect
Wagner also spoke about his excitement for the first day of teal season, just eight days away now on Sept. 9, and on efforts to raise $6 million to renovate Cheyenne Bottoms. When the time comes to bring in heavy machinery, Wagner said staff will try to make it is as painless as possible for hunters. Meanwhile, people may see several fires in the coming weeks as they burn cattails at the marsh.
Burning removes the tops so the standing plants can be disked, exposing the roots to the next frost.