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Serving: KS

Governor Has Offended Key Support Group

Gov. Sam Brownback's agreement to ban wind farm development, pursue Flint Hills tourism stirs anger

The Chautauqua County Farm Bureau feels betrayed and they are making their feelings known to Gov. Sam Brownback.

The group recently sent an "open letter" to the governor as well as to media outlets across the state, expressing their disappointment at his role in an agreement to halt wind power development in the Flint Hills and encourage the development of a tourism industry.

"We feel like we voted for a candidate and after he was elected, he was not at all what we thought," says board president Jim Beason. "This decision to just basically ignore private property rights is not what anyone expected."

Beason says maybe Farm Bureau members just didn't pay attention when candidate Brownback talked about the need for protecting the Flint Hills for tourism. He said he has heard from other Farm Bureau members who are also upset with Brownback, even though the state organization has not taken a stance and Brownback held one of a series of economic summits at Farm Bureau headquarters in Manhattan today.

Both Chautauqua and Elk Counties in southeast Kansas, the most economically depressed region of the state, had been talking to wind farm developers. Both projects have been halted because of the governor's agreement with developers to keep hands off the Flint Hills.

Beason said ranchers, regardless of how they feel about wind development, are upset at the governor's stance because it infringes on the right of a landowner to do what he wants with his own property, a longstanding hot-button issue in Kansas.

A bumper sticker being distributed in the region shows the depth of the anger.

Ranchers are also not universally enthusiastic about the prospect of tourism development.

"We don't want to be motel operators or tour guides. We want to farm and raise livestock," Beason said.

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