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Greg Houseman, associate biology professor, surveys the land gifted to WSU for new research.

Estate gift gives Wichita State researchers access to vast acreage in the Flint Hills

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Earl and Terri Youngmeyer always knew that the 4,600 acres of prairie, woodland and streams on their Flint Hills ranch had existed for centuries before them and likely would exist for centuries after.

So nearly 20 years ago, the Youngmeyers took steps aimed at preserving and conserving the vast expanse of land after their deaths. They reached out to Wichita State University through the WSU Foundation and began making arrangements to open their ranch to university faculty and researchers whose work could help protect its future.

Now, two years after Earl Youngmeyer’s death and that of Terri several years earlier, Wichita State has what biology department chair Bill Hendry calls a magnificent resource for several of WSU’s programs, including biology, geology and anthropology.

“This is truly a unique and important piece of land,” Hendry said of the ranch located about 40 miles east of Wichita, near the town of Beaumont. “There is water on the property, original prairie and grassland, woodland. The opportunities are significant for our faculty who study birds, insects, vegetation, animals. There is just a lot of diversity.”

Greg Houseman, associate professor of biology, echoed Hendry’s excitement. Scientists like he and his colleagues are eager to study how different ranching practices contribute to long-term conservation goals, he said.

“Having access to a ranch of this magnitude is a tremendous resource for WSU to make important contributions to understanding how ranching and agricultural practices may influence sustainability and even the economics of these ranches,” Houseman said.

New research possibilities

Wichita State already owns three nature reserves where biologists and other university scientists conduct research and experiments, including the 330-acre Ninnescah Reserve about 35 miles southwest of Wichita near Viola. But all are much smaller than the Youngmeyer Ranch and ecologically different, Hendry said.

Locator map

One of the more significant projects that could be undertaken at the Flint Hills property is the study of how Kansas ranchers have traditionally used controlled burning to stimulate new growth and eliminate invasive species, Hendry said. Changes in the timing and methods of controlled burns could reduce smoke pollution and safety concerns, he said.

The gift from Earl and Terri Youngmeyer illustrates how people can make a difference through their philanthropy, said Mike Lamb, WSU Foundation vice president for planned and principal gifts.

“This was the result of a longtime relationship with the Youngmeyers to develop and understand their gift interest,” he said. “The land had been in their family for many years. Their underlying priority was all about preservation and conservation.”

In addition to having access to the ranch for research projects, Wichita State also will get a share of income produced from the Youngmeyer Trust, including from cattle leases and oil and gas leases, Lamb said. This revenue will help ensure that the property is properly maintained for years to come.

Earl Youngmeyer died in 2012 at the age of 88. He was a member of the WSU Foundation’s Society of 1895 and enjoyed following WSU basketball and baseball. He was a Republican National Committeeman for many years and was active in Midian Shrine. An avid golfer, he was a lifetime member of the Professional Golf Association. Terri Youngmeyer died in 1999 at the age of 76.

If you would like to learn more about making an estate or deferred gift to Wichita State University, contact Mike Lamb, WSU Foundation vice president for planned and principal gifts, at 316-978-3804 or at mike.lamb@wichita.edu.

This story has been tagged Students, Faculty/Staff, Research, Biological Sciences, Anthropology, Geology, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. See all RSS feeds here
Created on Thursday, September 25, 2014; Last modified on Friday, September 26, 2014
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