TOPEKA – (September 23, 2014) – A federal judge has decided a lawsuit challenging increased federal regulation of economic activity and land use in the area that is habitat for the Lesser Prairie Chicken will be litigated in Oklahoma and not transferred to Washington, D.C., Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said today.
The decision yesterday by U.S. District Judge James H. Payne is the second time in the last two months that the federal judiciary has rejected an attempt by the federal government to move the litigation from Oklahoma to Washington, D.C.
“This is good news for Kansas,” Schmidt said. “It means our case will be decided here in our region where the actual effect of heightened federal regulation is already being felt by landowners, energy producers and other affected parties. The case will not be sent to Washington where it would be at risk of becoming just another abstract bureaucratic fight.”
Kansas, Oklahoma and North Dakota filed suit in April challenging the decision by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list the Lesser Prairie Chicken as “threatened.” Nebraska and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish also are requesting to join in the litigation.
Farmers, ranchers, oil and gas producers, and others in western Kansas already have expressed concern that the new regulation has had a chilling effect on economic activity in the region. Kansas state wildlife officials have said the new federal regulation is not necessary because state conservation efforts already were underway and have increased the population of the species.
Schmidt said he hopes the lawsuit now can proceed to the merits of the Kansas claims.