The Nature Conservancy Supports Legislation to Designate Little Jerusalem Badlands As Kansas State Park

The chalk badlands known as Little Jerusalem and owned by The Nature Conservancy provide impressive scenic views. They also serve as important nesting habitat for ferruginous hawks, cliff swallows, rock wrens and other native wildlife. The property is home to the single largest population of Great Plains wild buckwheat, a plant found in the chalk bluffs prairie of western Kansas and nowhere else in the world. In addition to modern wildlife, these badlands contain 85-million-year-old fossils of swimming and flying reptiles. 

"Little Jerusalem provides a unique opportunity to connect people to the wonders of the prairie," says Conservancy director Rob Manes. "But the Niobrara chalk is fragile and highly-erodible, so visitor access must be carefully managed to avoid damage. The Nature Conservancy's chief purposes for the site are to, first, protect the pristine natural features and, second, provide access for people to enjoy the natural beauty of the area."

Through Senate Bill 331, Little Jerusalem would be designated as a Kansas state park. The Nature Conservancy would continue to own the property while establishing a long-term agreement with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to manage outdoor recreational opportunities in a manner that protects the fragile rocks. As the landowner, The Nature Conservancy would continue to pay local property taxes and maintain management oversight. The adjacent Smoky Valley Ranch would maintain public access through hiking trails on the western ranch boundary but would not be part of the state park.

The Nature Conservancy has experience with another successful public-private partnership in Kansas at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, where the Conservancy owns the preserve and co-manages the land and public access with the National Park Service.

"We believe a partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism will best serve our goals at the Little Jerusalem Badlands," says Manes.

Niobrara chalk spires reach 100 feet in the air
Rock formations at Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park in western Kansas. TNC owns the property and has partnered with the state of Kansas to offer public access. © Laura Rose Clawson/TNC

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.