Saturday, August 30, 2014

Feds ruffle feathers with lesser prairie chicken listing

By The Herald Staff | 3/31/2014

TOPEKA — Gov. Sam Brownback announced late last week the state will sue the federal government over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ decision to list the Kansas lesser prairie chicken as “threatened,” in part because of the negative impact of the move on Kansas energy production, according to media reports.

“This is an overreach by the federal government and it’s another example of the Obama administration aggressively and unnecessarily intruding into our daily lives,” Brownback said at a news conference.

TOPEKA — Gov. Sam Brownback announced late last week the state will sue the federal government over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ decision to list the Kansas lesser prairie chicken as “threatened,” in part because of the negative impact of the move on Kansas energy production, according to media reports.

“This is an overreach by the federal government and it’s another example of the Obama administration aggressively and unnecessarily intruding into our daily lives,” Brownback said at a news conference.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services said the lesser prairie chicken falls under the Endangered Species Act because of the threat for the birds to become endangered or extinct in the foreseeable future. The ruling affects the chickens in Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., echoed Brownback’s frustration with the federal move.

“Listing the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act will have real consequences on many sectors in communities across Kansas including agriculture, oil and gas development, ranching, transportation and wind energy,” Moran said. “I am confident there are ways to address conserving the species while not hampering economic growth and farming and ranching activities. As conservation efforts are considered, producers deserve the flexibility to implement plans that fit their operations.”

The population of the lesser prairie chicken declined last year to a record low of 17,616 birds, an almost-50-percent reduction from the 2012 population estimate, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Senate Bill 276 — passed by the Kansas Senate in February and sent to the House — would establish the state as being the sole regulatory authority to govern the management, habitats, hunting and possession of lesser and greater prairie chickens that exist within the state, as well as making the chickens exempt from federal laws. State Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, who represents Franklin County in the Statehouse, supported the measure.

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