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Special Live Chats on AOL



[Steve Miller]

Guest: Steve Miller, Superintendent

Live Chat

A Prairie Partnership
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

June 17, 1998

Moderator: Davinder Khanna


Steve Miller, after 24 year career with the National Park Service, became the first superintendent of the newly established Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Strong City, Kansas. One of America's newest national parks, the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas is a 10,984-acre former ranch that contains the glorious, but  exceedingly rare, native tallgrass prairie.


GSTDKhanna: Welcome to "Parks & People-Live Events." Our guest tonight is Steve Miller, Superintendent of the newly established "Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve"

The Superintendent is typing to us from the Preserve located in Strong City, Kansas. He will share his insights on the General Management Planning activities (GMP), and will respond to our questions.

Thanks for joining us tonight Superintendent Miller, we thank you for taking the time to speak to us tonight

Sup Miller: It's my pleasure.

GSTDKhanna: How is the weather?

Sup Miller: It's the calm before the storm. We're expecting severe thunderstorms later tonight

GSTDKhanna: After we are done with this event!!

GSTDKhanna: Okay, here is our first question to start....Why is the TPNP part of the National Park System?

Sup Miller: It's the only unit set aside in the National Park System to preserve, protect and interpret the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. Only 1-2% of the original tallgrass prairie that once covered North America remains today. Most of this prairie is located within the Flint Hills Region in Kansas.

LClarkAVA: How large is the Park, Steve?

Sup Miller: The park is 10,894 acres.

SHawleyNPT: Is TPNP the only location in the US where tallgrass can be found?

Sup Miller: No, the Konza Prairie Research area ran by Kansas State University, over 8,000 acres owned by the Nature Conservancy, lies approximately 50 miles to the north of us.In addition, the Nature Conservancy also owns and manages the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Oklahoma, just to name two other large tallgrass prairie areas.

MSuls41389: When you arrived at Tallgrass, were the resources of the site what you expected them to be?

Sup Miller: The resource is beyond my expectations. The more we learn about the preserve, the more unique and special it becomes.

Nizlady: How is the caretaking of the Preserve being handled to date, being so large and with such a limited start budget?

Sup Miller: The preserve is being managed in partnership with the landowner, the National Park Trust. At this point, interpretive and visitor service programs are limited.

Slidetaker: What is the difference between a preserve and nat'l park or monument?

Sup Miller: There are many different categories for units in the National Park System. A preserve is set aside because of a unique natural resource. Most of the monuments are smaller areas created by presidential proclamation for some unique feature, such as Devil's Tower.

LClarkAVA: What kind of facilities does TPNP offer? Hiking Trails?

Sup Miller: The ranch headquarters area is open daily from 9 - 4. The 1 3/4 mile self-guiding nature trail is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Ranger led bus tours are available three times a day and an educational bookstore is open daily.

GSTDKhanna: We are just joined onstage by Paul Pritchard, President of the National Park Trust

PritchardP: Steve, it is great to see a park pioneer on line. Thanks for being there

Nizlady: At one time many Kansans were against the Preserve, are you getting their support now?

Sup Miller: Even though there are still differing ideas about the preserve, the fact that the preserve is part of the National Park System is accepted.

Nizlady: Good, I'm very glad to hear that.

Damcabe2: Has there been or will there be an Official opening of the Park?

Sup Miller: Good question McGellan TXa dedication was held last May.

MSuls41389: Does the Tallgrass Prairie NP contain a complete ecosystem within the present boundary with the currently existing conditions?

Sup Miller: Please clarify what you mean by a complete ecosystem.

PritchardP: Now that the preserve is open, I hope you will explain why it is such a unique park, and the GMP process.

Sup Miller: Currently, the General Management Plan which is now underway will set the long-term vision of what the preserve will become over the next 10 - 15 years.

Pgoosem: What do the bus tours cover? How extensive are they? Can the same places be reached by hiking?

Sup Miller: The bus tour is a 7 mile ranger-led round trip covering the three main interpretive themes of the park: the natural history of the tallgrass prairie, the legacy of ranching in the Flint Hills and the cultural history of native americans. Until the park service planning process is complete, hiking is only available on the 1 3/4 mile wind nature trail. The future recreational activities and their extent will be determined as part of the planning process.

Damcabe2: Is there Horseback riding or will there be?

MSuls41389: One of the purposes of the Preserve is to preserve an example of the Tallgrass prairie ecosystem. Is the area of the park large enough to contain all the contributing facets, and are the cultural resources contributing impacts which compromise the natural resources?

Sup Miller: This complex question is not easily answered, but most of the natural components exist within the preserve.

GSTDBridgt: I was going to ask about horses, but Damcabe beat me to it =) So, what makes the tallgrass prairie so rare?

Sup Miller: Some people feel the tallgrass prairie is the most endangered ecosystem in the world because of human activity. We would certainly invite all of our audience to visit us at the preserve or on our web site to see first-hand it's intricate beauty.

ContreeNC: Hello Steve

SchugtSOS: What interested you in Tallgrass in the first place?

Sup Miller: The tallgrass interested me because it is under-appreciated and not a well-understood natural system.

Pgoosem: The bus tours seem to cover wonderful areas. Do you stop and allow some indepth time to "feel" the areas?

Sup Miller: Yes, there are 3 stops where the visitors get out and experience the tallgrass prairie ecosystem

Mendy8: With regard to the planning process and the GMP that is currently out for comment, do you have interest from throughout the country, or is interest more regional in nature?

PritchardP: I know the NPS would like more national input into the GMP. The TRUST does too.

Sup Miller: We are receiving a lot of written comments mostly from Kansas, but we encourage people throughout the nation to comment. The questions and comment sheets are posted on the NPS page at

GSTDKhanna: We have provided a link to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve web site in this Parks Forum.

MSuls41389: Which creatures would be considered "native ungulates" at the Preserve?

Sup Miller: Primarily bison but also pronghorn, elk, & white tailed deer.

Nizlady: It's also an important part of our heritage

IdeaMan 2: What sort of wildlife is in that area and preserving the habitat helps what species?

Sup Miller: Currently, white-tailed deer, turkey, bobcats, red fox, coyotes, prairie chickens. We could go on. So far we have identified 275 species of plants, 150 birds, and over 20 species of mammals.

MSuls41389: Would the Preserve function as a working ranch/farm under any of the Alternatives

Sup Miller: Alternative B focuses on the cultural resources which include the ranching/farming period. In addition, the general public, the advisory committee, and interested organizations are providing input throughout the planning process.

Pgoosem: What % of the 150 birds are permanent or nesting? Is there good stock of praire chickens? Thanks for all info.

Sup Miller: We are in the process of conducting a survey of all the bird species within the preserve which we hope will answer your question. According to the Kansas Wildlife and Parks, Prairie Chicken and Upland Plover populations are increasing in this area.

MSuls41389: Would ranching/farming activities be managed by NPS or a partner?

Sup Miller: We have the opportunity to have either agency or perhaps some combination of both.

MSuls41389: How many Postwar buildings and facilities exist on site? Is there a date or event which signals a change to late 20th Century farming practices?

Sup Miller: A few of the buildings date to the postwar period. We are about to begin a historic resource study which will hopefully answer your question.

Pgoosem: So glad this area preserved, have been watching progress. Would bus tours be available in mid-to-late Sept?

Sup Miller: Thanks for the support!!! Bus tours are available until November 1.You may make an advanced reservation by calling 316-273-8494.

LClarkAVA: Speaking as a city-gal who doesn't know much about farming, are there crops there or just the cattle?

Sup Miller: Historically, there were such crops as corn, wheat, fruit trees, etc. Currently, a few small areas on the southern edge of the preserve are used for agricultural purposes.

Shantee100: Oh that sounds nice :o)

MSuls41389: Alternative A states that there is no guarantee NPT would retain ownership of the Preserve and raises the question of NPT management philosophy. Has NPT stated a position regarding the future of the Preserve?

PritchardP: I am learning from your comments and questions. NPT is working with the NPS for TPNP'S full potential. We are supporters of the GMP process which lets the people determine mgmt process. Our first priority is preservation of natural and cultural resources.

Pgoosem: Am confused with talk of farming in the future?? Did not farming destroy the original tall grasses? Perhaps am reading to quickly and misinterpreting? DO let's PRESERVE this tiny portion of the great prairies that were there!!

Sup Miller: Historically, a small area of the preserve's bottomland was farmed. In the future, it could possibly be used to recreate those historic farming practices.

PritchardP: With support of the AVA and others, we will PRESERVE this park unit. We are lucky to have Steve. Volunteer groups at the local level are crucial. The prairie has and this preserve will always be under assault unless concerned folks speak up. That is the GMP process.

LClarkAVA: We ARE lucky to have Steve who is obviously so dedicated to preserving this unique area.

Sup Miller: PritchardP & LClarkAVA: Thanks for your confidence, we are committed to do the best land management possible for THIS and future generations.

Pgoosem: PPrichard and Steve: you are both reassuring, glad I was misinterpreting. Thanks much

MSuls41389: Why is the NPS restricted from acquiring fee ownership of any land in the Preserve?

PritchardP: Unfortunately when the NPT offered to donate it, Sec. Babbitt could not accept it.

Sup Miller: Under the legislation the NPS can own up to 180 acres in the preserve, but manage and operate the rest of the preserve through a cooperative agreement with the National Park Trust.

PritchardP: And NPT wants the NPS to manage it all, even if we have to own it.

Damcabe2: I see you have a massive Barn, is there anything in it?

Sup Miller: The 110 x 60 foot three story limestone barn contains many pieces of farming and ranching equipment from the last 100 yrs of operation. We are currently using the barn as our interim visitor center for the summer season.

MSuls41389: How long has this site been under consideration as a Tallgrass Prairie Park?

Sup Miller: This particular site has been under consideration for at least the last 10 years.

PritchardP: Thank Judge Lee Fowler, Ron Klataske and others for bring this property to the NPT's attention.

Damcabe2: Thanks sounds great!!

Nizlady: Is that barn as high ceiling as it looks?

Sup Miller: The ceilings are at least 20 ft. high.

MSuls41389: Several years ago, a proposal for a Tallgrass Prairie National Park envisioned a park with several auto loops-a Blue Ridge Prairie Parkway. Was that proposal envisioned for this site?

Sup Miller: No, not within the site. Some people feel that there could eventually be a parkway that would tie in a several state prairie areas.

Sup Miller: We invite everyone to visit both the NPS Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve homepage and the National Park Trust TPNP homepage at

Nizlady: looked like more than just being a barn

PritchardP: Hey folks, go see it. TPNP is incredible. The NPS and NPT need your voice, loudly heard.

Nizlady: What kind of volunteer work can be done to assist at TPNP?

Sup Miller:Volunteers can help with all type of activities such as research, interpretive, and resource management.

SHawleyNPT: What is the best way to make our voices heard?

PritchardP: I hope everyone reads the NPS material on the website and speaks up. that would be best.

Pgoosem: You spoke of bottom land, what river system supports the area?

Sup Miller: There are 2 creeks, Fox and Palmer, which traverse parts of the preserve in addition to numerous springs and seeps.

LClarkAVA: Do volunteers contact you direct?

Sup Miller: Sure!! Anyone may write to: Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, PO Box 585, Cottonwood Falls, KS 66845 or call 316-273-6034.

GSTDKhanna: We are extremely grateful to Steve Miller and the crew at the Preserve for making this live event possible (Angie Hummel, Barbara Zurhellen)

LClarkAVA: Steve, thanks for chatting with us- thanks to Paul, Davinder, and NPT for making the arrangements.

Nizlady: Was great to learn from you Supt Miller. Thank you for your time

IdeaMan 2: Thanks Sup Miller...this was great and informative. :)

PritchardP: Thanks, Steve, Davinder, and all the great folks at the TPNP.

SHawleyNPT: Yes - thanks Sup Miller

GSTDKhanna: The scheduled time for our guest is coming to an end now

Sup Miller: We appreciate this unique opportunity to visit with people from all over the country.

GSTDKhanna: Thanks everyone for spending the time with us!

Pgoosem: Plan to see you there and say thanks in person!

Sup Miller: We look forward to meeting all of you in person at the preserve.

IdeaMan 2: This was very informative. Thanks

LClarkAVA: Bye from Houston

GSTDKhanna: Remember the Keyword on AOL is PARKS

Nizlady: Goodnight from Yosemite

GSTDKhanna: Goodnight from the Nation's Capital.

PritchardP: Thanks, Steve, from Arlington, VA

MSuls41389: Goodbye from New York

Nizlady: Thank you Davinder

Damcabe2: Thanks for all the good information you have on line of the Tallgrass Prairie.

Sup Miller: Goodnight from where the grass grows tall!

Pgoosem: And this is Nashville, TN

Nizlady: Will be in Kansas soon. Will have to see the Preserve

Damcabe2: Goodnight from McAllen Texas

GSTDKhanna: Thanks, Ada Piro (Slidetaker) for staying up so late for us! :)

Slidetaker: You're welcome Davinder. Goodnight from NJ

SHawleyNPT: Goodnight from Falls Church VA.


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