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County hears another tune on ‘land grab’

Staff writer

After initially talking about opposing a federal program described by opponents as a “land grab,” county commissioners on Monday decided to learn more before taking any action.

Their change of heart came after at last six people spoke up or sent messages to them.

Landowner Steve Schmidt, who spoke to commissioners a week ago when Angel Cushing encouraged commissioners to oppose a federal initiative called the “30x30 Program,” returned Monday.

“I’d like to reiterate my main concerns,” he said.

Schmidt, who owns land that was part of the Santa Fe Trail, has been involved with Santa Fe National Historic Trail at both local and national levels.

He said he was opposed to the 30x30 program but thought it should be fought in the courts, not through county resolutions.

“Please do not include any language infringing on my right to voluntarily enter into a conservation easement agreement,” Schmidt said.

He asked commissioners to give the public ample time to review and comment on any resolution that might be drafted before a resolution was voted on.

Goessel resident Brian Stucky, past president of Friends of the Cherokee Trail – Kansas, told commissioners he came to support Schmidt in opposing any resolution that would prevent private landowners from establishing their own conservation easements to protect their land.

“Putting your land in a conservation easement is voluntary,” Stucky said. “It is my understanding that the government cannot come in and force you to put your land into a conservation easement.”

Stucky urged commissioners not to pass a resolution that would place the county in a position of telling landowners what they could and couldn’t do with their own land.

Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, appeared online. He provided a letter from International Chisholm Trail Association president Dennis Katzenmeier.

“Our organization shares many concerns about the 30x30 initiative from the federal government, and we strongly oppose mandatory federal land acquisition,” Katzenmeier wrote. “That is why our organization, along with the Marion County Farm Bureau and others, supports legislation that would designate the Chisholm and Western Trails as national historic trails while protecting private property rights.”

He also provided a letter by Western Cattle Trail Association president Michael Grauer.

Grauer said he wanted to let commissioners know that the association supported national historic trails with built-in mandatory protections of private property rights.

Commissioner Kent Becker said he’d heard from several people who had “labeled him a certain way.”

“Other than the draft copy, we haven’t read anything,” Becker said.

He agreed that the historic trails in the county were important.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said landowners had rights and he wasn’t in favor of taking action.

“I think Steve’s got a point,” Dallke said. “Right now, I’d be stepping on people’s rights, and that’s what I don’t want to do.”

Commission chairman Dave Mueller asked who was interested in finding out how the 30x30 program would fit with the county’s comprehensive plan.

Becker and commissioners Dave Crofoot and Jonah Gehring raised their hands.

Last modified May 15, 2024

 

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