Located in the heart of the Flint Hills of Kansas, the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is a unique public and private partnership within the National Park System. All but 34 acres (14 hectares) of the approximately 10,800-acre (4,370 hectares) preserve is owned by the Nature Conservancy, a private nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting ecologically important lands and waters around the world. The Conservancy collaborates with the National Park Service on natural resource planning and management; the Park Service offers tours and a variety of other programs to enhance public access to the area. A third group, the Kansas Park Trust, operates a bookstore and gift shop at the preserve's historic ranch headquarters and actively promotes the preserve and the surrounding region. Retired Kansas Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker, who helped create the park, has called this special partnership "a model for the nation."
It didn't happen overnight. For more than 50 years, concerned citizens tried to create a park dedicated to celebrating and preserving a large remnant of America's native tallgrass prairie. The turning point came in 1994, when the private National Park Trust purchased the Z Bar Ranch, a nearly 11,000-acre (4,500 hectares) tract of rolling prairie; two years later, legislation was passed creating the preserve. In 2005 the property was transferred to the Kansas Park Trust and then to the Nature Conservancy, which has succeeded in protecting not only this splendid patch of native tallgrass prairie but also many other ecologically significant areas—more than 72,500 acres (29,300 hectares) in Kansas alone.
—Kathy B. Maher