Those who have an interest in the future course of the closest wildlife refuge to Pratt may want to check out the Draft version of Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP), which will “set out the management and use of Quivira Wildlife Refuge for 15 years.” The draft plan may be viewed online at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/planning/ccp/ks/qvr/qvr.html#Documents
One proposed measure, which has raised a bit of controversy in an ongoing online forum and at a public meeting in Wichita, is to close permanently to hunting an area north of the Big Salt Marsh referred to as “the flats.” This location, along with the Big and Little Salt Marshes, are where whooping cranes, an endangered species, typically land and/or fly through on their way north and south during spring and fall migrations. In return, the refuge proposes to open up wetlands areas which have never been previously accessible for hunting. These other locations are where whoopers rarely, if ever, traverse. To me, this makes sense compared to the current modus operandi. Presently, if whooping cranes fly or land at the refuge, the entire refuge is shut down for hunting.
Some local landowners have also expressed concern about the prospect of allowing limited deer and turkey hunting on the refuge at some future date. Many of these landowners feed deer and lease out hunting rights so they have a vested interest in how hunting on the refuge may impact hunting opportunities (and subsequently profits) on their lands.
These are only two small concerns in a much larger comprehensive conservation plan. Quivira National Wildlife Refuge primarily exists to create a welcoming habitat for birds migrating on the US Central Flyway. The Comprehensive Conservation Plan addresses just how this will be done over the next 15 years and is well worth a look.
Those who would like to comment on the plan may do so at the following link: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/planning/forms/qvr_ccp_form_comments.php. You can also comment by calling the refuge at 620-486-2393. Don’t wait too long, though. The comment period ends next Monday, May 20.
The current Quivira refuge manager, Mike Oldham, has assured me that all comments will be considered before a final Comprehensive Conservation Plan has been approved. The CCP should be approved sometime in late July or August.