Monday, February 28, 2011
Sedgwick County leaders are hearing a proposal to curb hazardous ozone from getting into the air, but the plan isn't likely to sit well with the ranching community. It involves voluntarily restricting open burning of grassland and pastures.
Burning pasture grass in the Flint Hills is an important part of livestock farming. It always has been. the state of Kansas, however, is now trying to implement what it calls the Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan that may affect those livestock farmers in this part of the state.
"There are some people that are opposed to it who need to burn pastureland and grassland that needs to be kept fresh every year," explained Sedgwick County Fire Marshal Tim Millspaugh.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is trying to balance that need to the problems it causes in more urban areas. According to the KDHE's website, the plan's voluntary approach leaves flexibility in the hands of the land manager, but also puts the responsibility on him or her to make wise decisions.
Millspaugh believes Sedgwick County is a small piece of the puzzle.
"Nontheless, I guess they see us as part of the smoke problem. That's the reason we're meeting tomorrow to determine if Sedgwick County is going to be involved in the voluntary restriction of burning during the month of April," Millspaugh said.
Smoke from Flint Hills burning can sometimes travel as far as Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, causing excessive ozone readings above the federal mandate for clean air. Right now in Sedgwick County, landowners must have a burn permit in order to do any open burning, but other counties have different regulations. Butler County, for instance, has no restrictions on agricultural burning other than a requirement to notify emergency dispatchers.
"The state is trying to improve the air quality specifically in the Wichita area and Kansas City area," Millspaugh said. "Those are the areas that typically have air quality problems during the burning months, especially when the Flint Hills are burning. The months of March and April are popular pasture burning months."
Tuesday's staff meeting gets started at 9:00 AM at the Sedgwick County Courthouse in Downtown Wichita. It is open to the public.