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Pheasant tour off target

8/1/2014

As you've no doubt already guessed, I didn't ride along on the wildlife and parks dog-and-pony show.

As you've no doubt already guessed, I didn't ride along on the wildlife and parks dog-and-pony show.

I already knew what they were going to say, and I really kind of knew what they were going to look at in terms of exemplary examples of what can be done as far as habitat for pheasants.

To be honest, I initially was looking forward to hopping on the big bus for a two-day trip around western Kansas. Spending a couple nights in motels and yes, spending two days simply sitting on a bus riding around western Kansas didn't thrill me at all.

Perhaps I shouldn't be that way, but while waiting for in-house approval to go along, something rose up and stuck in my craw. It's been festering there for a good long while, and this tour caused a full-fledged eruption.

You see, the tour was organized to quiet constituent concerns the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism isn't doing enough to bring the state's pheasant population back from the brink of disaster.

They're not, even if most of what they could do is little more than offer lip service.

But there's a different and much bigger issue at work here.

The tour, you see, started and ended in Hays. But it ignored Hays, much like the Brownback Administration and his flock of conservative legislators have sought to do.

Think about it, this show stopped in Graham County, and then had a public meeting in Colby.

Then it was on to Scott State Fishing Lake and another public meeting in Garden City.

Finally, they headed to Rush County before heading back to Hays.

To put this simply, Hays isn't and shouldn't be a jumping-off point for anything, save for travelers between Denver and Kansas City.

Hays is a regional force in northwest Kansas, and that's not even counting Fort Hays State University or Hays Medical Center.

No, with 14 motels in town, it's a destination for thousands of travelers. Those travelers include, and don't miss this point, thousands of pheasant hunters.

So, why no public meeting in Hays? Likely because dozens of hunters would have shown up, and they certainly would have voiced their opinions.

But conservative Republican state officials -- locked in a time warp of years ago -- still consider Hays and Ellis County to be a bastion of liberals. You know, dastardly Democrats.

But even in 2012, registered Independents outnumbered those people who wear a D behind their voter registration badge. Republicans far and away were the most numerous.

All this isn't anything new, of course.

Hays long has been lauded for its water conservation efforts, yet the Kansas Water Office refused to bring its gathering to Hays, at least until they specifically were asked to do so by city officials.

A whirlwind tour to get comments on the draft version of the 50-year plan also missed Hays.

While cutting short the comment period for residents attending a meeting in Stockton is a problem in itself, it's troubling the powers-to-be simply decided to forego visiting Hays -- again, considered the city in Kansas in terms of water conservation efforts.

The troupe didn't have a problem stopping in irrigation-rich centers of St. John, Liberal, Garden City, Dighton and Colby, plus the metropolitan areas of Manhattan, Wichita, Kansas City and Fort Scott.

Could that simply be a coincidence?

Match that up with the latest foray into the hinterlands, and it's all but obvious something's gone astray.

It would have been simple enough for KDWP&T to stage a public meeting right here in Hays either at the outset of the tour or at its conclusion. Even agency employees privately wondered why Hays was skipped.

There's been no mention and little media coverage of the event. As a result, with a great amount of confidence, I'm sure the agency has convinced itself it's doing all it can to preserve and boost pheasant numbers.

Of course, they knew that before the tour.