By MIKE CORN
At least one northwest Kansas community will play host to the first governor's pheasant hunt sometime this fall.
That community must first meet several requirements, such as the motel space needed to house 75 to 100 participants, according to Robin Jennison, secretary of what will likely become the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. That requirement will limit the number of communities large enough to handle the crush of visitors.
But communities that might be able to handle the event could include the likes of Scott City, Oakley, WaKeeney, Norton, Phillipsburg, Stockton, Colby, Goodland or Hays, Jennison said.
"Nobody's out," he said.
The hunt, something that was suggested by Gov. Sam Brownback, also must have relatively close access to airports that will be able to handle planes that shuttle in corporate chiefs and advisers.
While the overall idea is to showcase Kansas communities and the opportunities the state offers in terms of its outdoors, Jennison said the hunt also is designed to "do something for the local economy."
To avoid damaging the communities financially, Jennison said it's unlikely the hunt will be on opening weekend -- a time when virtually every motel room in northwest Kansas is booked by pheasant hunters, often a year or more in advance.
The pheasant hunt is expected to be an annual event, but unlike the governor's turkey shoot, it will rotate among communities.
That will require some extra effort, Jennison said, because KDWP&T will have to find sponsors and coordinators who will travel with the hunt, even though it might not be in their backyard.
"I hope to get that made in the next 30 days," he said of when a community will be selected.
The pheasant hunt will cross bureaus in the agency, in terms of hunting and tourism, as both will be involved.
Brownback has signed an executive order that would fold the Department of Travel and Tourism into KDWP as of July 1, unless the Legislature objects.
With little indication of opposition, Jennison has announced that Linda Craighead will head up the agency's parks and tourism division. Craighead, director of the Flint Hills Tourism Coalition, was Brownback's choice, attracting his attention due to her extensive work promoting tourism in the Flint Hills. Brownback specifically has targeted the idea of boosting tourism in the Flint Hills.
Under the terms of the executive order, KDWP&T will have two assistant secretaries, one for wildlife, fishing and boating and one for parks and tourism. Keith Sexton will take the helm for wildlife.
The reorganization order does away with the assistant secretary for administration's position, but Jennison said Dick Koerth's position will remain unchanged. He is the man behind the budget for KDWP&T.
"One of the things I want to emphasize is walk-in hunting and things like that," Jennison said. "I would like to either increase it or enhance it."
He'd especially like to see the number of acres involved increase the amount of land in the eastern part of the state.
He'd also like to see some access on Kansas rivers, even though he knows that's a touchy issue in some areas.
"It would be something very much like walk-in hunting," he said.
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Changes in the structure of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks -- adding tourism to its duties -- won't have any effect on the commission that advises the wildlife agency.
"The commission will be dealing with one more secretary," he said.
As it is now, assistant secretaries for operations and administration provide details about daily activities to the commission. Once tourism is added to the mix, an assistant secretary for parks and tourism will join in.
KDWP&T Secretary Robin Jennison said the handful of tourism department employees will be moving over to the wildlife agency's office in July.
"We think we can make some changes and bring them over here," he said of physically moving the department's employees into the Topeka office where Jennison is located.
Failing that, they won't be far if they remain where they are, he said.
-- Mike Corn, HDN