What Mike Hayden Really Thinks About Buffalo Commons

Kansas Viewpoint

Former governor says he's concerned about what's left when all the people are gone

Published on: July 22, 2010
I caught up to former governor and current secretary of wildlife and parks, Mike Hayden, today at a Kansas Land Trust dedication and finally had a chance to ask him: "What were you thinking  when you told the Kansas City editorial board that you'd changed your mind and now think Buffalo Commons is a good idea?"

A KC Star editorial last spring touched off a firestorm in Wallace and Greeley counties -- targeted as the likeliest spot to begin said commons -- when landowners there saw it as the first salvo in a state effort to take away their land and return it to the state mammal.

Hayden said he is definitely NOT in favor of taking land away from anybody currently using it. But, he said, upon taking a closer look at the Frank and Deborah Popper essay from 1987, he was disconcerted that their prediction of out-migration and depopulation is actually occurring even faster than they predicted.

"I do think we have to ask the hard question: what do we do when there are no people left in an entire county?" he said. "What happens to the land? I think it is a serious future specter that Kansas really needs to face and nobody wants to admit is out there. Tourism really works in places like Glacier National Park. It could be the answer."

Well, sorry Mike, but Glacier National Park and Yellowstone have a couple more things going for them in the tourism department than we can expect to attract with a bison herd in Wallace County.  Spouting geysers and ... well ... glaciers come to mind.

I'm all for acknowledging that the future holds challenges and we need to figure out how to meet them. But it seems to me that conceding we're doomed is a bit premature. Might our energy not be better spent on looking for real economic development?