- Associated Press - Friday, January 21, 2011

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Every year, Robin Jennison makes the journey from Topeka to his farm near Healy for the annual rite of fall - the opening day of pheasant season.

Toting a shotgun, he spends the day trekking across the fields of western Kansas with his family, searching for the elusive ringneck.

Now, he wants the rest of the state and country to see the beauty and opportunities he sees in Kansas - resources, he says, that for years have been under promoted.

Thus, from his new office Monday, Jennison worked on his day off despite it being a state holiday. There’s too much to do, he said. He’s taken the reason Gov. Sam Brownback appointed him as the new secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks to heart.

“Folks aren’t aware of what we have,” he said simply. “We’ve never promoted it adequately or promoted it right.”

Brownback has said he wants to market Kansas’ natural resources more aggressively - including elevating the hunting and fishing industries in Kansas as part of his economic development plan.

“I want to show America why Kansas has the best hunting in the world, some of the most unique recreational lakes and parks in the region, and unmatched tallgrass prairie land that takes you back in time,” Brownback said when announcing the appointment Jan. 7. “I want people across America to consider Kansas as a destination for a different and memorable vacation. I am confident Robin Jennison has the right knowledge, experience and skills to deliver this as the secretary of Wildlife and Parks.”

That doesn’t just include outdoor attractions, however.

Jennison said, if passed, he’d also be charged with promoting other state tourism attractions, such as Greensburg’s Big Well and Hutchinson’s Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center.

In his fiscal 2012 proposal, Brownback recommends moving the Kansas Travel and Tourism agency out of the Department of Commerce and into wildlife and parks.

That move wouldn’t save money, but it would consolidate efforts in marketing Kansas.

Jennison said the tourism aspect is why he jumped at the job. He talked to his brother, Dick, before accepting the job, noting he wouldn’t be home as often in the summer to help with the family farming and ranching operation near Healy - a partnership between the two brothers and their father.

“This was an opportunity I really wanted to try,” he said. “The tourism element - that was a real factor in my decision.”

As a Kansas farm boy, Jennison says he grew up around hunting and fishing and the socialization it emphasizes for family and friends.

“I like pheasant hunting with my dog - I’m on my fourth Brittany - and three or four guys,” he said. “We’ll go walking through an 80-acre field searching for pheasants.”

Promoting the outdoors for the future generation is an area he wants to call attention to, whether it is hunting for deer or going to one of Kansas’ 24 state parks.

“Most people who enjoy the outdoors, it is about passing on the tradition,” he said. “That is how I started hunting.”

The previous wildlife and parks secretaries, including former Gov. Mike Hayden, left the department in great shape, he said, praising programs like the Kansas Walk-In Hunting program that provides more public access for hunters through leasing private lands.

Now, the state needs to expand its promotion efforts.

His plan will be made easier, however, thanks to the support from Brownback.

“We’ve never had someone with the stature of governor that has put (wildlife and parks) as a high priority,” he said. “With his support, we can promote the outdoors and the other opportunities in Kansas. We can show people what we have to offer.”

Jennison said he hoped such an endeavor didn’t have to be done through fee increases, and he didn’t see the state selling any public lands, either.

“I just can’t imagine that - selling public land to make the budget,” he said.

A few of Jennison’s goals include:

- Continuing and boosting the walk-in hunting program.

- Better Kansas state parks

- Better inventory of the state’s assets.

Jennison said there are several other proposals that he and Brownback have been hashing around, but wouldn’t release the details.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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