Flint Hills

Patrick Emerson, flickr Creative Commons

Nebraska has limited legal options regarding the smoke carried into the state from Kansas ranchers who annually burn tallgrass prairie, a Lincoln attorney said.

A group of ranchers in Kansas' Flint Hills burned around 2.3 million acres of North America's largest unplowed stretch of tallgrass prairie Saturday. The burning led to complaints from neighbors in Nebraska due to winds carrying the smoke into the state, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

Patrick Emerson, flickr Creative Commons

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has issued safety tips and a smoke modeling tool for this seasons controlled burns in the Flint Hills.

Controlled or prescribed burns in the Flint Hills are used every year to clear out invasive species, cut down the probabilities of wildfires and encourage the Tallgrass prairie to thrive.

Over 2.3 million acres are burned in Kansas and Oklahoma yearly.

Dan Charles / NPR

The Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club has asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to step in and order Kansas to impose tighter controls on grass burning to protect air quality in the Flint Hills.

Sean Sandefur / KMUW

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. The agency looks after more than 400 protected sites across the country, including Kansas’ Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Tucked into the Flint Hills near Strong City, it too will celebrate an anniversary in 2016.

KMUW’s Sean Sandefur drove an hour north of Wichita to the 11,000-acre preserve to learn about its history and its future.

The Sierra Club in Kansas says state health officials and Kansas State University removed an ozone pollution monitoring site near Manhattan to prevent data collection that might support federal limits on Flint Hill grassland burns.

State health officials dispute that charge, saying the device 10 miles from Manhattan was unplugged because the equipment was more suitable for evaluating pollution in population centers.

Kansas State did not respond to request for comment.

Air-quality equipment at the Konza Prairie was unplugged in April 2013, just before burn season.

The Kansas Turnpike Authority is considering building a scenic outlook along Interstate 35 to allow travelers to stop and appreciate the Flint Hills.

The turnpike authority is considering improvements to on and off ramps south of Emporia that currently serve cattle owners, who truck in their cattle to graze in the spring and then retrieve them in the fall.

If the project is successful, it would be the first scenic overlook on the turnpike.

Aileen LeBlanc

The wild horses of the west are being managed by the federal government with 71 million tax dollars. Some people believe that the herds are growing too large and that the horses are over populating the western public lands, taking up resources that could be used for cattle, wildlife and recreation use. But extra feral horses can't be shot or slaughtered and few are adopted. So thousands are shipped to the Midwest for safekeeping on large ranches. KMUW's Aileen LeBlanc visited a herd of wild mustangs in the Flint Hills near Cassoday.