Kobach urges passage of bill that would exclude Lesser Prairie Chicken from federal protection

— Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach on Thursday urged legislators to approve a bill that would exclude the Lesser Prairie Chicken from federal protection.

"This is a fight worth fighting," Kobach told the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Kobach said Senate Bill 276 would likely lead to a legal battle and pit state rights against federal law.

"There is nothing in the Constitution that mentions the federal regulation of species," Kobach said. He said his testimony was as a former constitutional law professor and attorney who has litigated cases on constitutional questions, and not as secretary of state.

The bill would assert state sovereignty over nonmigratory wildlife, declare null and void any federal law in Kansas on the Lesser Prairie Chicken, and allow state officials to charge federal officials with a felony if a federal official tried to enforce a federal law dealing with the Lesser Prairie Chicken.

The bill is in response to the possibility that by April the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will list the Lesser Prairie Chicken as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

According to Fish and Wildlife, the historical range of the Lesser Prairie Chickens has been reduced by 84 percent because of development and conversion of native grassland to agriculture.

"The decline of the Lesser Prairie Chicken sends a signal that native grasslands are in trouble. By taking actions to conserve the species, we can also restore the health of our native grasslands that support local economies and communities in addition to migratory birds and other wildlife," the agency said.

Listing the Lesser Prairie Chicken as a threatened species would have a devastating impact on the western Kansas economy, according to some agriculture and energy interests.

Mitigation costs would double the price of constructing electric transmission lines, said Bruce Graham, chief executive officer of the Kansas Electric Cooperatives Inc.

It would also limit where wind turbines could be built, officials said.

"If we can pass this bill, many of you would go home heroes," said Steve Swaffar, representing the Kansas Farm Bureau.

The Lesser Prairie Chicken's population reportedly dropped by nearly half last year, but some say that was because of drought conditions, and that once the drought ends the bird will rebound.

State wildlife officials in Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas have proposed enacting a conservation plan in hopes of avoiding a federal listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken. But even that would impose significant costs, Graham said.

Kobach said that while state wildlife officials deal with the federal Fish and Wildlife agency, the proposed bill could be seen as Kansas "holding a club in the background."

Kobach said if the Legislature approved the bill and it ended up being challenged in court, the litigation costs would range from $100,000 to $400,000.

SB 276 would also apply to Greater Prairie Chickens, which are larger than Lesser Prairie Chickens. But Greater Prairie Chickens are much more abundant and are not being considered for federal designation as a threatened species.

Comments

Rick Masters says...

I tried to make it through this article without giggling, but I just couldn't do it. (*Eventually* we get to the reason behind it, but by then, it is too late.)

Posted 23 January 2014, 11:11 a.m. Suggest removal

Clark Coan says...

We should support a bill to end protection for the Lesser Secretary of State.

Posted 23 January 2014, 11:18 a.m. Suggest removal

Stuart Evans says...

How does the Secretary feel about marijuana law reform at the state level? The only thing in the constitution regarding cannabis or hemp, is the paper it was written on.

Posted 23 January 2014, 11:42 a.m. Suggest removal

Rick Hird says...

Why is the Kansas Secretary of State even involved in this? We have thousands of voters hanging in limbo and Mr. Kobach has time for this?

Posted 23 January 2014, 11:46 a.m. Suggest removal

Randall Uhrich says...

Typical Republican willing to sell out the environment in favor of developmental interests. I hope Kobach is plagued by nightmares of prairie chickens pecking him to death.

Posted 23 January 2014, 11:57 a.m. Suggest removal

Chris Golledge says...

Posted 31 January 2014, 1:32 p.m. Suggest removal

Steve King says...

I can't wait for some KS law enforcement officer to try and handcuff a Federal Officer. That would be historic.

Why is this guy spending time on this instead of being on the phone calling those 14,000+ voters whose registrations are in limbo?

Idiot. How much money has his moronic "enhancements" cost the state in litigations? Love to see the look on his face when we reject him at election time.

Posted 23 January 2014, 1:54 p.m. Suggest removal

Doug Harvey says...

This is more ALEC crap -- get federal protection of the environment out and rape what's left.

Posted 23 January 2014, 9:03 p.m. Suggest removal

Kate Rogge says...

How is this related to the duties and responsibilities of the <absolutely worst> Kansas Secretary of State?

Posted 24 January 2014, 7:55 a.m. Suggest removal

Fred Whitehead Jr. says...

He is taking a breather from his crusade to prevent Democratic voters from voting in Kansas and other states for Democratic candidates.

Posted 24 January 2014, 9:05 a.m. Suggest removal

Calvin Mabry says...

What a jerk. Typical republican trying to stick his nose in where it isn't needed or wanted to advance the cause of rich fatcats to destroy the environment or anything else that might get in the way of their greed. what a joke this state is becoming.

Posted 24 January 2014, 10:16 a.m. Suggest removal

Kyle Neuer says...

Gonna waste more of the taxpayers money tilting at windmills, eh Don Quixote?

Posted 24 January 2014, 10:43 a.m. Suggest removal

William Weissbeck says...

I guess the idea of "conserving" our resources for future generations is lost on our Conservatives. Their matra "burn all the coal and other cr#p now, but it will be great because our kids will have no national debt." We turned all the alfalfa fields over to corn and now there are fewer pheasants. Prairie chickens were already a rare sight at best. But who cares - we want electricity. (Even if we have to truck in drinking water).

Posted 24 January 2014, 11:38 a.m. Suggest removal

Clark Coan says...

As a "constitutional lawyer" he should know that Supremacy Clause of the Constitution makes so federal laws pre-empt any state laws to the contrary. He's just getting more publicity for himself so he can run for governor after Brownback.

Posted 24 January 2014, 2:47 p.m. Suggest removal

William Ballard says...

It's not enough that Kobach is going after Democrats and unaffiliated voters. Now he is targeting prairie chickens???!!! Guess that tells me where I am in the scheme of things. Seriously though, Kobach and his Tea Party cronies want state law to take precedence over federal law - never mind what the U.S. Constitution says. Well, we tried once - it was called the Articles of Confederation. Didn't work then - won't work now. We need to vote these idiots out of office now!

Posted 24 January 2014, 4:51 p.m. Suggest removal

Larry Colin says...

About this proposed legislation. First of all for Kansas to become a state it had to agree that the US constitution and the laws of the federal govt are supreme. Therefore no law can make a federal law unlawful. There is no defense of this stupidity. And the cost of such stupidity should be born by those that advocate it. Ultimately the feds will win as they have the power of the military if needed as well at all of the law enforcement agencies. To fight the laws and govt of the US in the US which Kansas is part of, is TREASON.

Posted 24 January 2014, 7:08 p.m. Suggest removal

says...

This issue is much bigger than any politician or protecting a Prairie Chicken. It is about more than 1/3 of the counties in Kansas and tens of thousands of acres in surrounding states. The potential effects it could have on those counties, their communities, their residents and the entire State of Kansas, if the USFWS is successful in listing the Lesser Prairie Chicken as endangered could very possibly be devistating to all. Before you jump to conclusions and cast opinions, please inform yourself, learn about the issue and what the consequences will be for all of us. I assure you this is much more serious than most any understand. A group known as KNRC has been challenging this listing by pointing out the requirements under law, of USFWS prior to any listing and they have failed to this point to recognize even so much as one of their obligations under law. Think it over, educate yourself and then post your opinions. they may be much different when you learn the truth?

Posted 25 January 2014, 8:51 p.m. Suggest removal

Ken Lassman says...

Seems to me that the proof is in the pudding, i.e. can KFW and USFW develop habitat restoration and conservation for the Lesser Prairie Chicken without the listing? If so, then the Lesser Prairie Chicken could be seen as a real potential boon for the landowner, who could access funds to upgrade and maintain good habitat, with the outcome being a more stable and growing population. If I were you, I'd be asking your neighbors to be pushing for incentives to preserve habitat and turn this from a potential liability into an asset. Have you talked to anyone from Fish and Wildlife yet?

Posted 26 January 2014, 9:27 a.m. Suggest removal

Kendall Simmons says...

Except that we already have 2 mammals, 2 fish, 1 invertebrate *and* 4 *OTHER* birds on the federal endangered species list here in Kansas...and it hasn't been "devastating to all" yet!

Indeed, we've heard the same "the sky is falling"argument before. So how come the sky hasn't fallen?

I also notice how you list that the organization we should listen to as the KNRC...which most people who pay attention to natural resources could reasonably be expected to assume to be the Kansas Natural Resource Council...a highly respected, responsible organization that's been around for over 30 years.

But nooooooo. *You* are referring to something called the Kansas Natural Resource Coalition. Which is supposedly a coalition of counties who think they are against this because of what they're being told. But who are the biggest funders? Power companies. Gee. What a surprise.

Posted 26 January 2014, 6:05 p.m. Suggest removal

says...

It is a shame when the dislike for a politician takes precedent over the facts.

Preserving habitat for the Lesser Prairie Chicken can be done without destroying the economics of the Ag families in central and western Kansas, but NOT by the plans put forth by the USFWS . Neither does taking away private property FOREVER through the use of Conservation Easements which reduce the land value...often to nothing...and prevents our children from enjoying any birthright, rather than preserving them, by making it possible for "conservation" groups to resell the land and develop it in any way they wish when the original owners fall on bad times.

I think the people in the city have forgotten that the Kansas economy is driven by property taxes and without the farm and farm income, everyone suffers. When we are being asked to harvest crops from the "inside out" of a field, eliminating the use of ATV's and other cost effective equipment...take heed hunters... or being charged a $38,000 permit fee to build a house/barn on our own property, then someone doesn't understand where the money to run the state comes from. If you think that is bad, how about a $27,000/mile fee to build a road to that same house or your stock water wells.

Transmissions lines will cost and extra $890,000/mile to the city and local lines will be near $30,000/mile. I challenge the person who made the comment about "wanting electricity" to go a week without it and see how he fairs. Oh and did I mention the tax dollars that will be required for NRCS to monitor the program?

Worse, the money isn't going to USFWS, or ANY government agency at all. It is going to the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies which includes two non-American members and at a fee of 12% interest for administration.

Check the facts. Conservation is one thing, destroying our Ag economy is quite another. If one hasn't read the COMPLETE proposal, all 390 pages which change often, you need to before you speak.

Nikki Schwerdfeger
Coolidge, KS 67836

Posted 26 January 2014, 10:22 a.m. Suggest removal

Ken Lassman says...

Do you have an internet link to the proposal?

Posted 26 January 2014, 1:31 p.m. Suggest removal

Kendall Simmons says...

I'm sorry, Nikki, but you've been fooled if you believe those figures. Why don't you point us to where *you* found these "facts"...like "transmissions lines will cost and extra $890,000/mile to the city" and "a $27,000/mile fee to build a road to that same house or your stock water wells".

Also, how can something be a "COMPLETE proposal, all 390 pages" if the proposal "changes often"???

Posted 26 January 2014, 7:11 p.m. Suggest removal

Julius Nolan says...

Think Nikki may have ingested too much koolaid or watched too much Foxnews.

Posted 26 January 2014, 7:28 p.m. Suggest removal

says...

Sorry Guys. No koolaid or Fox news. Just the facts as set out in the Federal register and USFWS documents....and you tell me how the "final" document can change with each new printing of "the final" document.

Start with the 302 page document from WAFWA five state plan for figures on Transmissioin lines and buildings....and County Road building and maintenance.... http://www.wafwa.org/documents/2013LP.... Page 91 is where the calculations start although I suspect when you are done there, you will appreciate the cost figures I have given as provided to me as a Kansas County Commissioner as part of my job.

The Federal Register pages 75306 - 75313 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 238 / Wednesday, December 11, 2013 / Proposed Rules is another good place to start. Be sure you read the 4D Rule and all the changes that have been made to it over the past months.

No people....the sky is not falling, but this isn't a joke. It is Agriculture in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas what the Spotted Owl was to the lumber industry and fighting with people like me because you don't want to believe it is happening will not stop it from happening.

Posted 26 January 2014, 8:59 p.m. Suggest removal

William Weissbeck says...

Let's start from this perspective - were there more or fewer Lesser Prairie Chickens 50 years or 100 years ago? If there were more, then what have land owners' actions caused the decline? And finally, is it more desirable to have an expanding LPC population rather than just maintain low population numbers that risks further declines due to other natural causes? This Western States vs DC mentality is not productive. If Kansas had already solved the problem, there wouldn't be action from DC.

Posted 26 January 2014, 10:44 p.m. Suggest removal

says...

William makes a good point. There may have been more LPC 100 years ago, but there were also more Bison 200 years ago and less people needing to be fed. I believe that the LPC has suffered most from the drought that has also killed the pheasants and crops and can be saved without ruining the farming economy.

Everything comes at a cost, its just where you want to spend your limited resources. Take the Black Footed Ferret. After spending MILLIONS on 128 animals, under total protection of USFWS, and major damage to Innocent neighboring land owners and local County government, after a few short years fewer than 10% are still alive. Pretty poor use of your tax dollars in my opinion, but instead of making changes, the plans are to expand the same project across 12 states,displacing the ranches and farms in those areas.

DC is involved, not because they know what they are doing, but because they were sued by an environmental group and without following the laws of NEPA and EPA which require the study of economic impact on the people effected, they have devised a plan without regard to humans. To me, this is A clear example that too many Americans have truly reached the peak of Maslow's Hierarchy of needs and have forgotten we still have US children to feed and cloth. Nikki

Posted 27 January 2014, 7:37 a.m. Suggest removal

says...

William makes a good point. There may have been more LPC 100 years ago, but there were also more Bison 200 years ago and less people needing to be fed. I believe that the LPC has suffered most from the drought that has also killed the pheasants and crops and can be saved without ruining the farming economy.

Everything comes at a cost, its just where you want to spend your limited resources. Take the Black Footed Ferret. After spending MILLIONS on 128 animals, under total protection of USFWS, and major damage to Innocent neighboring land owners and local County government, after a few short years fewer than 10% are still alive. Pretty poor use of your tax dollars in my opinion, but instead of making changes, the plans are to expand the same project across 12 states,displacing the ranches and farms in those areas.

DC is involved, not because they know what they are doing, but because they were sued by an environmental group and without following the laws of NEPA and EPA which require the study of economic impact on the people effected, they have devised a plan without regard to humans. To me, this is A clear example that too many Americans have truly reached the peak of Maslow's Hierarchy of needs and have forgotten we still have US children to feed and cloth. Nikki

Posted 27 January 2014, 7:37 a.m. Suggest removal

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