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Save the Tallgrass Prairie records

Call Number: RH MS 670


Save the Tallgrass Prairie, Inc. (STP) was formed by Northeastern Kansans in January 1973 as "an organization of concerned citizens who wanted to re-establish a small segment of the tallgrass prairie in as natural a condition as is possible" and create a Tallgrass Prairie National Park. The organization was originally known as Prairie National Park Natural History Association. The collection contains newspaper clippings, financial records, correspondence, and legislative records for and against the proposed park and other environmental issues.


  • Creation: 1960 - 1986


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

History of Save the Tallgrass Prairie, Inc.

Save the Tallgrass Prairie, Inc. (STP) was an environmental protection organization focused on raising awareness and funds to protect the tallgrass prairies in Kansas and Oklahoma, including efforts to turn it into a national park. The organization was established by environmentalists from northeast Kansas, including KU professor E. Raymond Hall and Kansas City artist Patricia DuBose Duncan, and its president was lawyer and former legislator Charles Stough.

STP was founded in January 1973 in response to talks between Congress and the National Park Service to create a “Cherokee Strip National Historic Park,” an attempt to create a park that would appease both environmentalists seeking to protect the land and ranchers who made their living off of it. Representative Larry Winn (R – Overland Park) and Senator James Pearson (R) had spearheaded the introduction of several bills proposing parks of this kind beginning in the 1960s; these were known as the Winn-Pearson bills. While the proposed park was meant to find a middle ground, it instead galvanized both sides of the conflict and resulted in the creation of the environmentalists’ organization, STP, and the ranchers’ organization - established in March 1973 - the Kansas Grassroots Association (KGA). STP did not fully oppose the Cherokee Strip proposal, but its members were concerned about the preservation of the tallgrass prairie segment. As a result, STP argued for a separate national park on the eastern slopes of the Kansas Flint Hills. In late 1973 Representative Winn introduced another bill for a sixty-thousand-acre park. As a result, the Special Committee on Environmental Protection of the Kansas House of Representatives called a public hearing to get the opinions of Kansans. Those opposed to the park included the KGA, Kansas Livestock Association, the Kansas Farm Bureau, and the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts. Those in favor included STP, Kansas Association of Commerce and Industry, the Kansas Association of Garden Clubs, and the Kansas City Junior Leagues. Other members of the U.S. House of Representatives concluded that the project would lie dormant until Kansans were not so divided.

In 1974 STP, along with a few other organizations, co-hosted The Tallgrass Prairie Conference in an attempt to ease tensions and come to some sort of agreement. However, efforts to move forward with legislation continued to be stymied as Kansans remained divided. In response, STP ramped up its advocacy and lobbying. Over the next several years, STP continued to engage in media campaigns and put on several events featuring media exhibits and education efforts. A new educational division called the Tallgrass Prairie Foundation produced a scenic route map of the Flint Hills and sponsored bus tours, and STP continued published in mass circulation magazines such as Time and National Geographic.

Winn introduced his last park bill, H.R. 5592, in 1979. STP was deeply involved with the development of this bill, which proposed an overall area that could cover as much as 3.5 million acres of the Flint Hills in Kansas and Oklahoma, consisting of three ‘core-park units’ called Wabaunsee, Chase South, and Osage. The KGA and other agricultural organizations still staunchly opposed the bill, and due to the continued division of public opinion the House once again remained unsupportive of the bill. Winn concluded that further efforts were futile and did not introduce another bill for the rest of his time in office. Efforts for a park remained largely dormant in the 1980s after the failure of H.R. 5592, though in 1983 trustees of the Barnard Ranch in Osage County announced that they would be willing to sell the 29,000-acre ranch to create a preserve. STP, the Audubon Society, and the Nature Conservancy latched on to the prospect and brought it to the district’s representative Mickey Edwards. Edwards supported drafting legislation provided that the reserve did not exceed 50,000 acres, no private lands were condemned, and the effort gained enough local support. Senator Don Nickles echoed these sentiments and organized a task force to parse out what local farmers and land-owners might agree to. By mid-1985 the task force recommended that legislation be drafted that would allow for a 50,000 acre ‘working park’ that included a second farm which was offering to sell – the ‘working park’ would allow the Indigenous members of the Osage Nation on the land who owned gas and oil rights to continue collecting from these sites. However, when the legislation was introduced in 1987 it was quickly dissolved again due to opposition, largely from the Osage Tribal Council and other cattlemen, farmers, and oil drillers. By the late 1980s, STP mostly stagnated in advocacy campaigns. As founder Patricia DuBose Duncan put it, it was discouraging to “feel that the people of Kansas don’t want to help save the prairie enough for me to keep active. I feel that our side continues to talk to itself and has never tried effectively to reach the power base in Kansas” (letter to Chris Madson). However, the Audubon Society spearheaded the acquisition of Z Bar Ranch in Strong City, Kansas. This effort finally culminated in a successful bill, championed by Senator Nancy Kassebaum (R), which created the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in 1996. Although STP remained largely in the background during the last decade of the movement to create a park, it was the group most responsible for bringing the issue to national attention in the 1970s, and thus played a large part in its eventual creation.

[information retrieved from Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Legislative History, 1920-1996 by Tallgrass Historians L.C., the Patricia DuBose Duncan papers at Spencer Research Library (RH MS 535), and Tallgrass National Prairie Preserve Historic Resource Study by Hal K. Rothman and Daniel J. Holder.]


38 Linear Feet (49 boxes + 3 oversize boxes, 5 oversize folders)

Language of Materials


Physical Location

RH MS 670

Physical Location

RH MS 318

Physical Location

RH MS Q147

Physical Location

RH MS R138

Physical Location

RH MS-P 670 (ff)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts, Save the Tallgrass Prairie, Inc, 1981, 1991, 1995.

Related Materials

Prairie National Park Natural History Association records, Kansas Collection, RH MS 263, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Patricia DuBose Duncan papers, Kansas Collection RH MS 535, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Charles Stough papers, Kansas Collection, RH MS 894, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Guide to the Save the Tallgrass Prairie Collection
Save the Tallgrass Prairie records
Finding aid prepared by rlf, 2006. Finding aid encoded by rlf, 2006. Finding aid revised by cl, 2010; kls, 2023.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Save the Tallgrass Prairie records, Kansas Collection, RH MS 670, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States