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Kansas officials urge federal agency to find listing of lesser prairie chicken not warranted

Amy Bickel
The Hutchinson News

TOPEKA – Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Kansas Department of Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey are urging government officials to consider that Kansas landowners have implemented efforts to protect the lesser prairie chicken and that a threatened or endangered listing is not warranted.

In a comment letter sent to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, the officials point out that relisting the lesser prairie chicken as threatened or endangered would have a substantial negative impact on the state’s economy and agricultural industry, and would unduly impinge on the state’s sovereign interest in controlling how the land within its borders is used.

“The previous listing of the lesser prairie chicken did nothing to enhance the species or its habitat, but it threatened the energy and agriculture economies of western Kansas. I urge the federal government not to reinstate this unnecessary and harmful listing,” Brownback said.

In July 2016, the lesser prairie chicken was removed from the Endangered Species Act List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife following a September 2015 court order from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, which vacated the fish and wildlife service’s 2014 listing rule. However, in September 2016, in response to a new listing petition from three environmental groups, the service began a reassessment of the biological status of the species. That assessment is expected to be completed this summer.

“The courts rejected the last attempt to list the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened or endangered species,” Schmidt said. “It would be wise of the federal agency to reconsider its decision to press ahead and instead focus on working cooperatively with Kansas and with affected landowners to achieve the common purpose of sustaining the species’ population.”

“This renewed effort to list the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened or endangered species ignores the dramatic increase in the occupied range of the species since the mid-1990s, which is a direct result of improved weather conditions and the voluntary conservation measures of Kansas farmers and ranchers,” McClaskey said. “This recent action by USFWS does not recognize the significant and successful stewardship of our agricultural community.”

A copy of the comment letter can be found here: http://bit.ly/2kotRE0.

For more agriculture news from around the state and nation, visit www.kansasagland.com.