Lesser Prairie Chicken

J. N. Stuart, flickr Creative Commons

The University of Kansas has a $2.1 million contract to study the lesser prairie chicken.

The university will work with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to track the federally threatened species in hopes of conserving the birds' habitat.

A conservation plan by the association calls for voluntary cooperation from industries in Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Kansas.

Kansas has the largest prairie chicken population of those states.

Gov. Sam Brownback has directed two state agencies to develop a program for breeding lesser prairie chickens after the federal government listed the bird as a threatened species.

Brownback said Thursday that the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism will draft a plan for a program.

The governor said the federal government must sign off on a breeding program, and he’ll seek its consent.

Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said the program would round up wild prairie chickens, breed them and release them.

Environmental groups have filed a federal lawsuit that argues the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not doing enough to protect the lesser prairie chicken.

In March, the agency listed the bird as a threatened species. But the three environmental groups contend the lesser prairie chicken should be listed instead as “endangered,” which would prompt stronger conservation measures.

The executive director of Audubon of Kansas likes Governor Sam Brownback’s call for improved federal conservation incentives for farmers to help increase the habitats for the lesser prairie chicken.

Ron Klataske said yesterday that increasing the amount of land enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program would help reverse a loss of habitat for the bird.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the lesser prairie chicken as threatened this spring because of its declining population numbers.

Governor Brownback will be in Wichita on Tuesday to discuss the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listing the Lesser Prairie Chicken as a ‘threatened’ species.

He also will outline the next steps as he works to conserve the bird's range while protecting the rights of Kansas businesses and landowners.

He'll be joined by Kansas Department of Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey and Vess Oil Corporation managing owner J. Michael Vess.

The governor will speak in the auditorium at the Great Plains Nature Center in north Wichita on Tuesday afternoon, beginning at 2 pm.

Federal authorities are reassuring Kansas farmers and landowners that listing the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species won't affect their ability to enter or exit the Conservation Reserve Program.

The Agriculture Department's Kansas Farm Service Agency (FSA) says producers participating in CRP in the 39 lesser prairie chicken counties in Kansas are planting native grasses and vegetation that will enhance nesting and brooding habitats.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not responding publicly to a new Kansas law that says only Kansas can regulate the lesser prairie chicken within its borders.

In March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the prairie chicken as threatened because of a steep decline in the animal's numbers. The listing protected lesser prairie chickens in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado and New Mexico.

The agency’s spokeswoman Claire Cassel declined to comment on the law yesterday.

Kansas legislative negotiators are considering a proposal to challenge the federal government listing the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species.

Three senators and three House members are meeting today to draft a compromise on a bill; it declares the federal government has no authority to regulate prairie chickens in Kansas.

The Senate wants to make it a felony for a federal employee to regulate the lesser prairie chicken or the larger and darker greater prairie chicken.

State wildlife officials may bar the hunting of all prairie chickens in southwest Kansas to help the state comply with the federal government’s listing of the lesser prairie chicken as threatened.

The state Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism said yesterday that fewer than 100 lesser prairie chickens are taken each year, but the goal is to try to prevent any from being killed.

An advisory commission will consider the proposal in June.

Finney County commissioners want to have a say in the federal government’s regulations for the lesser prairie chicken.

The commission signed a letter to the Bureau of Land Management yesterday asking for coordinating status while the agency devises a plan to regulate the lesser prairie chicken and its habitat.

The bird was designated as a threatened species last month.

The BLM has asked Kansas counties affected by the decision to participate in the process.

But county commissioners said they want more than just input.

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