Gov. Sam Brownback unveiled a plan Friday to more than double the area in the Flint Hills shielded from commercial wind development.
The zone covered by a voluntary moratorium on new industrial expansion would expand in central Kansas to 10,895 square miles from the existing 4,673 square miles. Projects already under contract won’t be inhibited by the governor’s new policy.
A coalition of ranchers, preservationists, wind developers, power companies and government officials endorsed the governor’s decision to make preservation of tallgrass prairie a priority.
The acreage covered by Brownback’s policy – Tallgrass Heartland – would extend to the Oklahoma border on the south, near Wichita to the west, Riley and Pottawatomie counties in the north, and Topeka and Burlington to the east.
Brownback said the policy shouldn’t be interpreted as an attempt to deter expansion in Kansas of wind farms or construction of more transmission line to carry wind power to urban centers.
“Wind is helping power homes across the Midwest,” the governor said. “Kansans understand and value our state’s rich and abundant energy resources.”
Stephen Guretin, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the agency supported the governor’s effort to expand the wind power moratorium to include a majority of the Flint Hills region.
“We believe that measures to protect this and other sensitive grassland habitats in Kansas is a positive step forward in balancing long-term energy needs with the conservation of crucial ecosystems,” Guretin said.
Paul Sadler, executive director of the Wind Coalition, said the group had worked with Brownback on planning the expansion and was confident a balance would be found between environmental stewardship and growth in the energy sector.
Bill Moore, president and chief executive officer of Westar Energy, said the company would remain committed to placing wind farms in environmentally appropriate areas.
“We support Governor Brownback’s broadening of the preserved area of the Flint Hills,” Moore said. “We also applaud his sensible approach to maintaining a balance between the environment, energy and the economy.”
Saving the ecological character and ranching culture of the tallgrass prairie from development will help preserve a state treasure for future Kansans, said Ron Klataske, executive director of the Audubon of Kansas.
“It is reflective of the interests of most residents within the Flint Hills,” he said.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding