Fight over water rights at central Kansas refuge resolved


ST. JOHN, Kan. (AP) — An agreement over water rights at a man-made wildlife refuge in central Kansas has been signed.

The agreement between the federal government and local farmers over water rights in Quivira National Wildlife Refuge was signed Saturday during a stakeholder meeting in St. John, Kansas, The Hutchinson News reported.

The plan is to end water rights in sensitive areas of the refuge and allow water rights in less sensitive areas, as well as to remove water-depleting, invasive trees.

The 22,000-acre refuge is a hotspot for wildlife migration. More than 200 bird species, 60 types of butterflies, 400 varieties of plants and 50 different reptiles, amphibians and mammals frequent Quivira, the newspaper reported.

Stakeholders have been trying to reach an agreement on water rights there since 2013. Republican U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, of Kansas, and the new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director stepped in recently to help.

The long-sought agreement means local farmers can continue irrigating their crops.

“We want to make sure we are not just regulating,” Moran said. “The ability of farmers in central Kansas to make a living determines the future of the communities in central Kansas.”

The next step in the agreement is to conduct environmental testing.