National Parks and Conservation Association
1776 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Congress Asked to Make Tallgrass Prairie
a New National Park(4/17/96)
Washington, D.C. -- The nation's leading national park advocacy group today urged a Senate subcommittee to preserve a piece of America's frontier heritage by approving S. 695, a bill to designate the Z-Bar/Spring Hill Ranch in Chase County, Kan., as the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. "As a new unit of the National Park System, the preserve will offer an interpretive experience found nowhere else in the world," said William J. Chandler, the National Parks and Conservation Association's (NPCA) vice president for conservation policy.
Chandler reminded the subcommittee that seemingly infinite tallgrass prairie shaped our country as successive waves of settlers moved West. More than 140 million acres of the central United States were once covered by this rolling sea of grass, some of it 10 feet tall, but today less than 2% of the original tallgrass prairie survives in isolated fragments. Small patches of tallgrass prairie can be found at four units of the National Park System, but all are far too small to represent a fully functioning ecosystem.
"No one questions the overarching importance of the tallgrass prairie to America's natural and cultural heritage," Chandler testified, "Today, the Z-Bar Ranch is one of the few remaining tracts large enough to allow the National Park Service to properly interpret this legacy. After years of consideration and debate, this bill has all the elements needed to smooth its passage in the 104th Congress." S. 695 is co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole and Sen. Nancy Kassebaum.
The National Park Trust, a private land conservancy, purchased the 10,894-acre ranch in 1994 for $4.79 million. Under an agreement with the National Park Service, all but 180 acres of the ranch will remain in private hands. The acreage immediately surrounding the core visitor area will be donated to the Park Service by the Trust. Visitors to the new park will benefit from a wide-range of tours, interpretive exhibits and programs on the natural and cultural importance of the prairie that are found nowhere else in the Park System.
"The Z-Bar proposal offers an exceptional opportunity for the Park Service to protect a uniquely American landscape at minimal cost to the federal government," Chandler concluded.
The National Parks and Conservation Association (NPCA) is America's only private nonprofit citizen organization dedicated solely to protecting, preserving, and enhancing the U.S. National Park System. An association of "Citizens Protecting America's Parks," NPCA was founded in 1919, and today has more than 450,000 members.