Renowned Kansas conservationist left mark on landscape, many agencies
HAYS -- On Nov. 29, Kansas conservationists lost one of their greatest advocates in Dr. Gerald Tomanek, who passed away after serving the natural resources of the state for nearly 60 years in various capacities.

Tomanek received an A.B. and M.S. degree from Fort Hays State University (FHSU) and a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska in botany. He was also active in research and was widely published in his field. From 1947-1987, he served at FHSU as an instructor, administrator and president (1975-1987.)

Between 1954 and 1958, Dr. Tomanek and Dr. Fred Albertson, then professors at FHSU, conducted studies funded by the National Park Service in 24 areas in Colorado, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming, New Mexico, Montana, Texas, and Kansas. The results of the Tomanek-Albertson investigations led to the creation of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, eventually located in Chase County, Kansas.

Tomanek was the recipient of numerous awards, including the FHSU Alumni Achievement Award, Kansan of the Year by the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas, Hays City Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame Award, W.D. Philip Conservation Award, Conservation Educator of the Year Award by the Kansas Association of Soil Conservation Service Districts, and the Trail Boss Award by the Range Management Society. In his later years, Dr. Tomanek served as chairman of the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission (1987-1991.)

In 1963, the Phillips Petroleum Company commissioned Tomanek to compile and edit the classic book, Pasture and Range Plants, which, complete with detailed illustrations, is still considered one of the most comprehensive and descriptive compilations of grassland plants ever published. In the book's forward, Phillips Chairman and CEO W.F. Martin wrote, "It is gratifying that our original aim to help improve grassland use and preservation through increasing knowledge of grasses is being achieved. I hope this book will thereby prove a worthwhile, lasting contribution to the nation's health, growth, and prosperity."

"This book" could easily apply to Tomanek's life and his dedication to conservation the natural resources of the Sunflower State for future generations of Kansans, a life that proved much more than "worthwhile."