Land purchase bill modified

A compromise has been reached within a portion of a senate bill that restricts the purchase of land by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

S.B. 123 originally was designed to allow the department to make quick rate changes to state park cabin fees. Out of the blue Rep. Sharon Schwartz, R-Washington, added an amendment that would require the department to get legislative approval to purchase more than 160 acres of land.

Several rural Kansas legislators oppose the purchase, or even operation, of any public lands. Kansas, by the way, has been ranked as low as 50th in the nation for amount of land that’s available for public recreation.

According to Chris Tymeson, department attorney, the compromise would allow the agency to purchase up to 320 acres or up to 640 acres if it’s below appraised value, without legislative approval. All other purchases would take the approval of Topeka politicians.

Public land proponents say the lengthy time frame needed to get legislative approval could cost the department opportunities at private lands at great prices and/or in key locations.

The amended bill must now go back through the house and senate.