HPPR Environment

Awareness:
geography
geology
hydrology (water, aquifers, rivers)
flora
fauna (wildlife)
climate
weather
ecosystems
climate change

Management & conservation
water conservation
soil conservation
wildlife protection
policies & regulations

Luke Clayton

TIME TO BEGIN PREPPING FOR BOW SEASON   

It’s amazing just how quickly seasons and, to an old hunter, HUNTING seasons, roll around. Whitetail archery season is less than three months away and now is the time to make sure all your equipment is in top-notch working order and that you can place that arrow where it needs to be when the moment of truth comes and that bruiser buck is within bow range. 

brownsranch.us

I love the wide-open, top-of-the-world feeling I get whenever I’m on the Great Plains. Last month, I was able to relish that feeling once again. After flying into Bismarck, North Dakota, I drove out to Gabe Brown’s 5,000-acre ranch and farm.

Gabe showed me to a chair on the porch of a one-room cabin he’d built for meetings with visitors. A prominent leader in the Soil Health movement, he told me that a group or an individual comes by almost every day to learn about his regenerative farming and grazing techniques.

“So tell me what you’re interested in,” he said.

I told him that until my family sold our western Kansas irrigated farm in 2006, we had done our part in depleting the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest source of groundwater in this country. That farm and others like it were continuing to drain the aquifer, which seemed wrong to me. For a long time, I’d been looking for some positive news to share about how the aquifer could be saved.

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I thought I'd plant a seed of history about a favorite feat of flair from a former First Lady. I'm talking about the Highway Beautification Act, passed in 1965, which was a visionary project of Lady Bird Johnson. 

Public Domain via Maxpixel

If you grew up on the High Plains, you might have wondered in recent years where all the horny toads have gone.

The horned lizard is the state reptile of Texas, and for decades horned toads were a favorite plaything of High Plains kids. But these days, notes Texas Monthly, horny toads aren’t nearly as prevalent as they once were.

From Texas Standard:

NASA says droughts are becoming more common, and will continue to be. If that's true, more lawsuits could follow. In the U.S., states are taking each other to court over what constitutes fair use of rivers and tributaries. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in Florida v. Georgia, settling  a long-running dispute over three river systems shared among Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The decision could have significant implications for Texas' water disputes with its neighbors.

Luke Clayton

As my fishing buddy Phil Zimmerman and I rounded the point and entered a small secluded cove on Iskwatikan Lake in northern Saskatchewan, Canada, we were both thinking BIG PIKE. Shallow shoreline water with standing vegetation dropping quickly into deeper water; this area had everything a big northern pike could want.

How High Plains States Could Be Impacted By China Tariffs

Jul 6, 2018
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The United States’ trade war with China could have long-lasting effects beyond the current growing season.

Today, China put tariffs on $34 billion worth of American imports in response to American tariffs imposed by the Trump administration.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says Chinese, Canadian and Mexican tariffs will impact exports in High Plains states to varying degrees.

Creative Commons

With wildfires continuing to burn in Colorado, two laws are going into effect aimed at fighting and preventing them in the future. 

As The Denver Post reports, the penalties for leaving a campfire unattended or not fully extinguished in grasslands or a forest just became tougher under a new state law that went into effect Sunday. 

Under that law, violators will be hit with a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $750, six months in jail or both.

Our Turn At This Earth: Soil Health Movement

Jul 5, 2018
USDA National Resource Conservation Services

I had read something about a Montana farmer who was using sweet clover as a cover crop in his wheat. The details are long lost to me. He may have been inter-seeding the clover with the wheat, or establishing it over a season or two, then turning it under before he planted his cash crop. Whatever his method, the clover, being a legume, fixed nitrogen in the soil.

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The number of earthquakes in Oklahoma of magnitude 4.0 or higher is up significantly for the year 2018. However, the overall frequency of quakes is still on the decline.

As The Tulsa World reports, through the end of June this year, the Sooner State saw almost 100 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or higher. But that’s down from almost 150 during the same period last year.

On today's Growing on the High Plains, we'll share a burst of color for your post-Fourth of July blues. I'll spend some time on an elegant flower I've enjoyed for years in my own garden, and it's also a big hit with the pollenators.

I'm talking about bee balm, which is indeed medicinal! Native Americans dried the tender leaves to brew herbal tea, and that practice also influenced early settlers who were dependent on black tea from England—and they found  it to be quite revolutionary (literally)!

Kansas water use is declining, according to a new report from the U.S. Geological survey.

In 2015, Kansas used on average more than 4 billion gallons of water each day. That’s down nearly 25 percent from 1990. Of that, 2.6 billion gallons per day are used for irrigation — a decrease of 36 percent from 1990.

“What we’re doing is great, it’s just not enough of it,” said Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter.

Solar energy advocates protested Westar Energy’s latest rate proposal Thursday and are lobbying state regulators to deny it.

The proposal would create a separate billing class for people who install solar panels on their homes. The change could effectively increase a typical solar user’s bill by as much as 50 percent.

There’s a long-forbidden crop on the verge of legalization, one that’s versatile and could open up new markets for farmers: hemp.

Luke Clayton

As a young boy growing up in northeast Texas, I would read the outdoor magazines and dream of one day fishing in the remote, pristine waters of Canada. There was something about this wild country that has always drawn me like a magnet. The cry of the loon on a still evening while casting for pike, walleye and lake trout in waters where the fish have never seen a hook or,  enjoying a noon meal of very fresh fried walleye or pike cooked over a campfire on an island surrounded by pristine water is something every angler should experience.

Our Turn At This Earth: Dream Women

Jun 28, 2018
Public Domain

In the dream, a little girl stands beside a row of women. The women are dressed demurely in dark dresses such as the ones my mother’s mother wore—navy blue with tiny polka dots or dark green bordering on black. They sit erect in straight-backed chairs, their hands folded in their laps. The girl moves from one woman to the next, asking, “Do you have any magic?” Each, in turn, smiles indulgently at the girl. “Oh my! Why no, dear.”

How might have Native Americans and early settlers washed up after a day in the Dust Bowl, in an age before shower gels and laundry detergent pods? The answer probably won’t surprise you, as the aptly-named native tree is the subject of today’s Growing on the High Plains.

Luke Clayton

Regular readers might remember an article I wrote about hunting eastern turkey up in Oklahoma at the vast 45,000 acres “Choctaw Hunting Lodge, located less than an hour west of Hugo, OK.  This past week, I made my second trip to this outdoor wonderland, this time with several great friends including Larry Weishuhn, aka “Mr. Whitetail”.

From Texas Standard:

Most discussions about how to solve climate change involve limiting greenhouse gas emissions. But what if there was another way? A new study co-published by a team of researchers at Harvard and a Canadian company called Carbon Engineering says there is one.

Our Turn At This Earth: Finding The Right Words

Jun 21, 2018
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It’s happened many times. There I’ll be driving innocently down a western Kansas road, and a stretch of buffalo grass will reach out and grab me, almost pulling me into the ditch. Often, I’ve had to stop the car and get out, as I did one February afternoon a few years ago.

From grapefruit to Cadillacs, everything looks prettier in pink! And flower gardens are no exception. So what’s the preferred puce-petaled posy for High Plains planters?

On today’s Growing on the High Plains, we’re delving into the “pinks,” the quintessential cottage flower also known as Dianthus. From their humble origins in English gardens to the palette of 300+ species that exist today, the prolific Pinks have been providing a playful pop to garden perimeters for centuries.

A legislative audit released Tuesday concluded that while wildfires in Kansas are becoming more frequent, a lack of resources and coordination are hampering the state’s ability to fight them.

Firefighting duties and resources are spread across three separate agencies, which auditors said is complicating wildfire response and communication between state and local officials.

Each spring, ranchers across the Eastern Plains look at their land and ask an important question: How much green can they expect this season?

In this case, “green” refers not to money, but grass. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently launched a new tool to help cattlemen predict just how much they can look forward to.

Luke Clayton

Lake Fork- Round up a foursome of still very active old guys, all a few months away from their 68th birthday and chances are pretty good they have some “stories”. After all, there is just under 300 combined years of living amongst this group, plenty of time to amass untold life experiences, many of which are just down right funny!

Our Turn At This Earth: Nature Fix

Jun 14, 2018

Back in my late 20s, after my marriage had ended, I just couldn’t stand being in the city. I fled to the Mojave Desert every chance I got, because in the wilderness, with no people for miles upon miles, I felt less alone. That sounded crazy whenever I said it out loud, so I seldom did.

Last week we set the roots of our two-part tale of the mighty onion, peeling back the odorous history, health benefits, and cultural significance across the globe. On today’s installment of Growing on the High Plains, let’s bring it back home—to our own back yards! We’ll discuss the many layers of growing and harvesting from your onion patch.

US Fish and Wildlife

A fire in northwestern Oklahoma has consumed over 4,000 acres, with the damage stretching into northeastern New Mexico.

As KFOR reports, fire crews struggled to contain the so-called Porter Fire, which began in Cimarron County. The fire was attributed, like most of the recent fires on the High Plains, to “high temperatures and low-relative humidity.”

Our Turn At This Earth: Taking Notice

Jun 11, 2018

Today, rather than share my observations of the High Plains, I devised an exercise to encourage you to explore yours. I hope you enjoy it and that it brings you some insight into your relationship with the land. You can do this in your head, but it will be more informative if you do it with your feet, nose, hands, eyes, ears, and, if you’re particularly adventurous, maybe even your tongue.

Drive to a place where intact (not over-grazed) pastureland borders bare farmed ground or a planted field. Stand at the fence facing into the pasture, or if you’re comfortable doing this, crawl through the fence, walk a ways and sit down. Whether it is hot or cold out, windy or calm, smell the air and experience the feel of it on your skin and in your lungs. Take deep breaths. What do you smell?

Luke Clayton

Options, that’s what this week’s column is all about. We fishermen have several options when it comes to wetting a line for sport or, in many cases, a fresh fish dinner! We can own our boat which comes with some “built in” costs in the form of initial cost, fuel, registration, etc. etc. Or, we can hire the services of a fishing guide to enjoy a day on the water at our favorite lake. A few lucky anglers either own or have access to property with a fishing pond. We can fish public reservoirs “from the bank”.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera / The Texas Tribune

Water restrictions in New Mexico have created a supply crunch for the fracking industry, so more free-flowing Texas water is helping to fill the void. But not without controversy: A top New Mexico politician says Texans are pumping his state's water and piping it across the state line for oil drillers.

From The Texas Tribune:

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