Supporters of a tallgrass prairie preserve in Osage County say the purchase of thousands of acres by a business division of the LDS Church in the proposed prairie area will not affect their effort to establish a national park.
Harvey Payne, president of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve Association, said it is too early to tell what effect the land sale will have on the proposal, which was stifled last year after a dispute between U.S. Rep. Mickey Edwards, R-Okla., and the Sierra Club."But we're really racing against the clock now," Payne said.
Officials of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said a business division of the church purchased the land, reportedly as much as 78,000 acres in Oklahoma and Kansas that included more than 15,000 acres of land proposed for the tallgrass prairie. Church officials have not disclosed the purchase price or exact acreage involved.
More than 65,000 acres of land was purchased from the Bartlesville-based Oklahoma Land and Cattle Co., according to court records and land deeds.
Church officials say they will use the land to graze Florida calves. The LDS Church has similar cattle ranches in Florida, Missouri and several Mountain West states.
Payne said he believes a new proposal for a tallgrass prairie can be drafted, but the loss of the Oklahoma Land and Cattle Co. land in Osage County could be a problem.
"We don't know what interest the Mormon Church will have in a Tallgrass Prairie Preserve," he said.
Payne and other supporters of the preserve said the Mormon purchase proves the land proposed for the national park "isn't going to be available for long."