TOPEKA, (KSNT)- The lesser prairie chicken, a declining animal found in parts of Western Kansas, is stirring up a heated debate over government overreach.
It’s even prompted Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach to threaten legal action over the latest move from U.S. officials.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services is listing the rare wild chicken as a threatened species in parts of Kansas. The bird will be considered endangered in areas further south.
In an interview with Kansas Capitol Bureau on Wednesday, Kobach said the impact of the listing could be devastating.
“People, listening to this might think…’lesser prairie chicken, never heard of it, who cares…’ It’s not really about the lesser prairie chicken… it’s about what this listing would do to Kansas agricultural…oil interests… including grazing cattle,” Kobach said.
“If this listing goes into effect, it will mean that probably no new oil wells will be drilled in Kansas or these other regions, no new wind turbines put up in these areas…,” Kobach explained. “And, this listing would require all Kansas ranchers… every one of them in the area that’s effected… would have to get permission from an agency designated by the federal government in order to graze their cattle where they want to, so the ranchers of Kansas would have to ask ‘mother, may I’ to the federal government.”
Kobach announced his intent to sue the Biden administration in a letter on Tuesday, if the agency doesn’t withdraw the rule before it goes into effect on March 27.
The move comes as U.S. wildlife officials are pushing to protect the bird from extinction.
According to the agency, while voluntary conservation efforts have helped conserve key habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken, the agency says it has not curbed the trends of habitat loss and fragmentation facing the lesser prairie-chicken. They estimate that about 90% of the bird’s habitat is gone, as of last year, and about 32,000 birds remain.
However, Kobach argued that the bird’s population fluctuates during drought periods, similar to what some areas in the state are experiencing. He also said the agency has failed to take state conservation efforts and wildlife management into consideration.
“For example, the Greater Prairie Chicken, which has an even greater range in Kansas and goes up into Nebraska and South Dakota… that one has been thriving, even though it’s being hunted at the same time,” Kobach explained. “Management by wildlife officials, who really know what they’re doing and have proven that they know what they’re doing, can actually make species numbers go way up.”
In his letter, Kobach noted efforts by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) to work with federal agencies, regional organizations, nonprofit organizations and private landowners to conserve the lesser prairie chicken and its habitat. He argues that their efforts have helped stabilize the lesser prairie chicken’s population and expansion of its range in Kansas.
To read the full letter, see the document below:
Ksag Esa 60 Day Notice (Lpc) Final by Matthew Self on Scribd