April 21, 2004

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Contact: Jennifer Dropkin, Kansas Biological Survey, (785) 864-1528.

KU plans inventory of natural areas in northeast Kansas

LAWRENCE -- Starting in May, native prairies, forests and wetlands around Kansas City, Kan., and along the Kansas River will be inventoried by the Kansas Biological Survey.

KBS, based at the University of Kansas, will begin a systematic inventory of natural areas in Douglas, Johnson, Leavenworth, Miami and Wyandotte counties.

The inventory will identify existing high-quality natural areas by examining and analyzing information from field topographic maps, historic and recent aerial photographs, digital satellite data and field surveys, according to Kelly Kindscher, KBS associate scientist and principal investigator for the inventory. These sources will be used to examine previously identified natural areas and evaluate their current status.

"The remaining gems of native prairie and high-quality forest are part of our natural legacy and are very important for biological diversity and our quality of life," Kindscher said. "Natural areas provide habitat for plant and animal species that are crucial for conserving biological diversity in Kansas."

Healthy, biologically diverse natural areas buffer the effects of pollution, protect water quality, prevent soil erosion and improve land values, Kindscher said. They also are a source of beauty for northeast Kansas, he added.

Most of these lands are on private property, and the three field teams, composed of KU staff and students, will contact landowners to ask permission to visit parcels.

The inventory will provide information on the remaining high-quality natural areas in the rapidly developing Kansas City region and Kansas River corridor -- information that can be used by federal, state and local policy-makers as they work to balance the development of the state's natural resources with the benefits of healthy natural areas.

The State Wildlife Grants Program, a federal grant program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, funds the inventory. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks administers the grant.

KBS is a nonregulatory, non-degree-granting research and service unit of KU and the state. KBS is a nationally recognized leader in several fields of environmental research and maintains a strong and active tradition of natural history study.

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