TOPEKA – (February 1, 2017) – Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Kansas Department of Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey yesterday urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) to determine that the Lesser Prairie-Chicken population in Kansas is being protected by the state’s voluntary efforts and that re-listing it as threatened or endangered is not warranted.
In a comment letter sent to the USFWS, the officials point out that re-listing 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 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 USFWS’s 2014 listing rule. However, in September 2016, in response to a new listing petition from three environmental groups, the USFWS began a re-assessment of the biological status of the species. That assessment is expected to be completed in the summer of 2017.
“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.”
The letter sent yesterday urges the USFWS to determine that the renewed effort to have the Lesser Prairie-Chicken listed as threatened or endangered is not warranted under the facts or the law, and asks the USFWS to give proper weight to the sweeping economic impact of the rule, the state’s sovereign interests, and the long-term trend showing that the states’ conservation efforts have been effective in re-establishing the population of the species in all eco-regions where it is found.
A copy of the comment letter can be found here: http://bit.ly/2kotRE0.