News Archive

All News

Saving a Critical Kansas Ecosystem

By Pattern Energy Stories
June 22nd, 2021

 

Adult Whooping Crane and Chick

"Adult Whooping Crane and Chick" by USFWS Headquarters is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“In addition to the importance to whooping cranes, Cheyenne Bottoms is one of the most important waterfowl and water bird migration stopover locations in the country.”

- Allen Wynn

Pattern Energy takes its commitment to the communities where we operate facilities seriously and that includes the environment. 

Located in Barton County, there are 20,000 acres that belong to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks: Cheyenne Bottoms. (The Cheyenne Bottoms wetland covers 41,000 acres.)

Cheyenne Bottoms is the largest inland marsh in the United States and it's critically important for our environment: approximately 45% of all migratory nesting birds in the United States stage there, which means without it nearly half the birds passing through North America would encounter major threats to their survival.

As the world moves further into renewable energy, taking consideration of the land being utilized and doing what’s right for the environment matters. During project development, our Post Rock Wind team made commitments due to the project being close to a whooping crane migration corridor.

The migratory path of the whooping crane is a path that is relatively narrow in terms of migration paths at 200 miles wide all the way up to Alberta, Canada.  

 

 

The Enemy

Phragmite Reed is an invasive species that doesn’t belong in Kansas. It can grow up to 15 feet tall, which lets it outgrow and outcompete native plants in Cheyenne Bottoms. 

When native plant species can’t survive, it creates cascading effects throughout the ecosystem that can cause animals to starve. 

Jason Wagner is the Wildlife Area Manager. He said: “It’s a battle we fight every year.  They spread quickly in marshes and wetland areas, robbing the fish, plants and wildlife of nutrients and space; and blocking access to the water for swimming, fishing, and other recreation endeavors.”

 

The Battle

Thanks to a contribution from Pattern Energy’s Post Rock Wind, a helicopter was contracted by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT).

The helicopter did an herbicide spray (at levels safe for aquatic and wetland areas) and improved 733 acres of wetlands habitat, making the environment friendlier for native plants and animals.

A local avid outdoorsman and Director of Environmental and Permitting at Pattern Energy, Allen Wynn appreciated the seriousness of the situation when he said, “In addition to the importance to whooping cranes, Cheyenne Bottoms is one of the most important waterfowl and water bird migration stopover locations in the country.”

 

The Future

Cheyenne Bottoms is one of 41 locations in the United States on the list of Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance.

Thanks to the combined efforts of the State of Kansas and Post Rock Wind, Cheyenne Bottoms will continue to provide migratory birds a place to rest and stage while also providing natural beauty and recreation for everyone.