Kansas Governor Pushes Back On Prairie Chickens

By: AP/WIBW
By: AP/WIBW

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/WIBW)-- Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is pushing the federal government to assume some costs for protecting the lesser prairie chicken by expanding incentives for farmers to enroll their land in a longstanding conservation program.

Brownback also said Tuesday that Kansas will return to federal court this week to seek additional time for farmers, ranchers and oil and natural gas producers to respond to the federal government's decision in March to list the bird as threatened.

The Republican governor outlined his proposals at a Tuesday news conference, joined by Kansas Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey and J. Michael Vess, Chairman and managing owner of Vess Oil Corporation.

“The federal government is operating at cross purposes with itself,” Brownback said. “On one hand, the Department of the Agriculture has reduced its Conservation Reserve Program by 25 percent since 2008 diminishing the range of the chicken and then U.S. Fish & Wildlife lists the bird as ‘threatened,’ based at least in part on circumstances the government itself created.”

Brownback says he wants federal officials to acknowledge the role of drought in rises and declines in the bird's population. He also requested an opportunity to show how work with existing programs provides examples of good-faith effort to help the species recover.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contends the listing is justified by a steep decline in the bird's numbers in recent years.

The executive director of Audubon of Kansas likes Brownback's call for improved federal conservation incentives for farmers to help increase the habitats for the lesser prairie chicken.

Ron Klataske said Tuesday that increasing the amount of land enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program would help reverse a loss of habitat for the bird.

Complete news release from the Governor's office:

Governor Sam Brownback today outlined the next steps he will take to protect Kansas landowners and businesses from the negative effects of the Lesser Prairie Chicken’s listing as a threatened species.

Joined by Jackie McClaskey, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture and J. Michael Vess, Chairman and managing owner of Vess Oil Corporation, Governor Brownback called on the Obama administration to take several actions, including suspending current regulatory actions pending review of all plans that might be available to Kansans.

“The federal government is operating at cross purposes with itself,” said Governor Brownback. “On one hand, the Department of the Agriculture has reduced its Conservation Reserve Program by 25 percent since 2008 diminishing the range of the chicken and then U.S. Fish & Wildlife lists the bird as ‘threatened,’ based at least in part on circumstances the government itself created.”

Among the steps the Governor announced today were a formal request to Sally Jewel, Secretary of the Interior and Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture to suspend current regulatory actions until all proposed plans are reviewed and considered so Kansans may make a choice of the plan that best meets their needs; to recognize the important role drought has played historically in the ebb and flow of the Lesser Prairie Chicken population; and to address current program opportunities available through the Conservation Range Program or Environmental Quality Incentives Program to show good faith that recovery of the species is the mission.

Kansas also is expanding its participation in the Oklahoma law suit asking for an injunction to give Kansans time to consider all their options, including those plans that remain in the pipeline for governmental approval.

“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.”

Posted by Melissa Brunner


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