The creation of the Kansas Wildscape Foundation was authorized by the Kansas Legislature in 1990, in coordination with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. The legislation authorized the establishment of the independent, 501(c)(3), tax-exempt foundation dedicated to raising funds and accepting other tax-deductible donations to benefit wildlife and outdoor recreation activities in Kansas. The foundation was officially founded on February 15, 1991, and became operational on August 1, 1991.
Over the last three decades the Kansas Wildscape Foundation (Wildscape) has been instrumental in creating and promoting outdoor activities for all Kansans. Several major projects highlight this list, the most notable of which is the Cabins Project. With a generous donor Wildscape was able to finance and construct 73 of the state’s cabins located in Kansas State Parks and wildlife areas. These cabins provide thousands of night’s stays for friends, families and outdoorsmen and women participating in outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, boating, camping and more, with all the amenities of home.
The Milford Wetland Restoration Project was boosted by matching funds generated by Wildscape creating a wetland visited by migrating shorebirds and waterfowl, as well as waterfowl hunters, annually.
Additionally, Wildscape created several programs specifically targeting Kansas youngsters. One is the Outdoor Kansas (OK) for Kids Program. It began in 2001 and to date tens of thousands of youngsters have participated in these events, many held at Kansas State Parks, with additional events held in city or county recreation centers. Events feature shooting sports like archery and shotgun instruction, as well as fishing derbies, birdhouse building instruction, and a myriad of other outdoor activities. More than three dozen events across the state were held in 2022 with more planned for 2023.
The WildLifer Challenge was created to get kids off the couch and into Kansas’ great outdoors. Participants log-in and check off various challenges on the list including catching a fish or frog, shooting a bow, planting a tree, or even just taking a hike or packing a picnic lunch to enjoy outdoors. Upon successful completion of the challenges participants are mailed a prize package of cool gear meant to compliment outdoor fun!
More recent accomplishments focus on partnerships working directly with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and other conservation groups. In the last 18 months, Wildscape has financially sponsored KDWP R3 (recruitment, retention, and reactivation) activities like the National Archery in the Schools Program, Border Wars Archery Tournament, Becoming an Outdoors Woman, SHE Goes Outdoors Gear Boxes, the Great Kansas Fishing Derby (2021 and 2022), 10th Annual “Wild About Kansas” Photo Contest, Pratt Community College Hunting/Shooting Mentorship Program and natural resource agency conferences held in and highlighting Kansas. Further, financial consideration was given to KDWP’s Law Enforcement Division to complete a trailer to be used to educate Kansans on the impact and problems associated with poaching Kansas wildlife.
Wildscape also helped financially sponsor the Wichita Clay Dusters, a group of youngsters age 11-18 from the Wichita area high schools. The team is comprised of coaches and kids of color with none having a high school trap shooting team. But via sponsorship from Pass It On-Outdoor Mentors, they can participate in shooting sports competition via the Scholastic Clay Target Program.
One additional sponsorship of Kansas youngsters will occur in the spring of 2023 when Wildscape partners with Pass It On-Outdoor Mentors to select 5-6 Kansas youngsters to participate in the Governor’s One-Shot Turkey Hunt in El Dorado.
Wildscape receives a small portion of cabin revenue for administrative costs associated with the foundation and it’s 1.5 employees. Additional monies for programs and projects are generated through grants, private donors and fundraisers held throughout the year. All money raised by Wildscape stays in Kansas and is spent on projects benefitting Kansans.
According to the most recent (2016) National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation prepared by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, more than 103 million Americans, nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population 16 years and older, participated in some form of fishing, hunting, or other wildlife-associated recreation such as birdwatching or outdoor photography. Those individuals spent an estimated $156.9 billion on equipment, travel, licenses, and fees. This number represents nearly 1 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, creating and supporting thousands of jobs and communities across the nation. Nearly 36 million Americans fished in 2016, while 11.5 million hunted and 86 million watched wildlife.
Kansas is fortunate in the fact the decline often seen in license buying sportsmen and women in other states hasn’t been as drastic in the Sunflower State. Kansas consistently ranks near the top in national average participation rates for both hunting and fishing. Roughly 18 percent of Kansas residents participated in fishing (national average is 14 percent) while 8 percent went hunting (national average is 4 percent)
Add to this the number of campers, hikers, trappers, and wildlife watchers (32 percent of Kansans did this which equaled the national average) and the state is indeed a place where Kansans value their outdoor recreational opportunities.
The Kansas Wildscape Foundation is pleased to play a part in creating, sustaining, and promoting outdoor activities. By working with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and other conservation organizations, it is hoped that Kansas continues to provide ample opportunities for Kansans to enjoy the outdoors in all forms.