These were Osage Orange trees, possibly planted in the 1940’s, and I don’t see how they would ever have been a threat to the high lines. Now a long-awaited project has begun to make Highway 61 four lanes from Hutchinson to McPherson, and naturally the first order of business is the removal of trees.


I recently mentioned the miles of hedge row being ripped from the ground near my home to make way for a large new batch of electric transmission lines.
These were Osage Orange trees, possibly planted in the 1940’s, and I don’t see how they would ever have been a threat to the high lines. Now a long-awaited project has begun to make Highway 61 four lanes from Hutchinson to McPherson, and naturally the first order of business is the removal of trees.
A small wetlands area just outside the sleepy little town of Medora succeeded in routing the new construction around it, but didn’t succeed in saving the trees along the river. I figured the only trees to be disturbed would be just where the bridge crossed the river, but nearly every tree along the river between the old highway and the new two lanes, one-half mile away has been torn from the ground and burned in a pit.
I consider myself a “realist” and I understand the big picture needs of progress, but I still say “What a waste” that wood could not have at least become firewood for those desiring it. At least the hedge wood beneath the future new high lines was offered to landowners for that purpose.
Anyway, the other night I was thinking about the process and started wondering about the wildlife along the stretch of river stripped of trees for the new highway.
The people whose homes stood in the way of the new construction were paid to abandon those homes and build another, or to move them to safety at a new location. Not so with the local wildlife, which are now homeless and must join other local populations. Some, like beavers and raccoons, become very territorial this time of year. New residents will not be very welcome, resulting in fights between males and the death of some. Others, like skunks and opossums, may choose the convenience of simply moving into  town, where I doubt they’ll be welcomed with open arms. (This will also apply to snakes later in the spring.) Also worth considering is the fact this all begins right about the time wildlife will start to have their young. It’s sort of like suddenly being evicted from your home when your wife is nine months pregnant.
Once the highway is completed, it will offer a whole new set of circumstances. Instead of crossing two busy lanes of traffic to get from one side to the other, deer, raccoons and other wildlife we commonly see dead along the road will have four busy lanes to navigate.
Please understand I did not suddenly develop a bleeding heart, nor do I plan to chain myself a tree or stake myself to the ground at the site of the new bridge in protest. It’s a documented fact destruction of habitat is the No. 1 enemy of wildlife. We all have our pet peeves, and destroying trees and the riparian habitat along rivers and streams is near the top of my list.
I realize what must happen in the name of progress, but I don’t have to like it. Sometimes I just think too much, and columns like this often  are the result. Don’t allow my ranting to keep you from Exploring Kansas Outdoors!

Steve can be contacted by email at stevegilliland@embarqmail.com