Gov. Brownback: Federal Protection Of Lesser Prairie Chicken Is An 'Overreach'

Mar 28, 2014

Governor Sam Brownback criticized the federal government's decision Thursday to add the lesser prairie chicken to its list of threatened species.

Brownback called it an "overreach," and his spokeswoman says his office is considering a lawsuit.

Governor Brownback and others are worried how the protections for the prairie chicken could affect agriculture, oil and gas drilling, wind farms, and other businesses.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's move came just as state lawmakers considered Senate Bill 276. It says the state has the sole authority to manage the population and habitat of both the lesser prairie chicken and its larger cousin, the greater prairie chicken, within Kansas' borders.

SB 276 makes it a felony for any federal employee to enforce laws, rules or treaties dealing with the birds. The measure is now pending in the state House.

Audubon of Kansas executive director Ron Kla-taske says challenging the decision with a lawsuit would be "political grandstanding" and that the state should instead concentrate on rebuilding lesser prairie chicken's numbers.

Last year, the lesser prairie chicken's population across Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico declined to fewer than 18,000 birds.

That's nearly 50 percent lower than 2012 population estimates.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services decision takes effect on May 1st.