Kansas steps up fight against Lesser Prairie Chicken listing
Rather than mandating conservation regulations on Kansas farmers, ranchers and energy producers, Governor Sam Brownback is urging the federal government to take a different approach in its efforts to stop the population decline of the Lesser Prairie Chicken.
In March, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced plans to list the Lesser Prairie Chicken as a “Threatened Species” under the Endangered Species Act. The listing will affect the LPC’s range, which includes land in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
Governor Brownback, who signed a bill in Kansas objecting to the federal listing and authorizing state enforcement actions to block federal regulations related to the Lesser Prairie Chicken, sent a letter this week to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack requesting the agencies suspend all current regulatory actions until all proposed plans are reviewed and considered, take into consideration the role precipitation, or lack thereof, plays in the shifting population patterns of the Lesser Prairie Chicken, and consider opportunities available through existing conservation programs, including the Conservation Reserve Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. The letter urged the agencies to work together on this topic.
“Currently USDA is taking acres out of CRP in Kansas, and at the same time, the Department of the Interior is trying to put more land in long term conservation easements by regulating the Lesser Prairie Chicken and putting it as a listed threatened species,” Gov. Brownback said. “This is working at cross purposes…This is wrong.”
Governor Brownback said the state was also expanding its participation in the Oklahoma lawsuit by asking for more time for people to be able to assess various plans, not just the federal plan but other plans, for species preservation and expansion.
While the agency determined a listing was necessary due to ongoing population declines, Governor Brownback said the Lesser Prairie Chicken population has fluctuated through the years in Kansas. He pointed to studies in the state showing “erratic shifts” in population numbers during the 1950s due to precipitation levels. According to the USFWS, in 2013, the Lesser Prairie Chicken population was estimated to be 17,616, almost 50 percent less than the 2012 population estimate, a year of significant drought throughout the range states.
“The listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken is just one more example of the federal government disregarding state’s rights,” said Governor Brownback. “We will protect the rights of Kansas landowners and businesses. We can do that and protect the Lesser Prairie Chicken at the same time.”