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.
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.
A Kansas House committee has advanced a bill aimed at bucking federal regulation of the lesser prairie chicken. It was announced last week that the federal government would list the bird as a threatened species.
The bill says federal rules and policies surrounding the lesser prairie chicken have no effect in Kansas.
Washington Republican Sharon Schwartz is chairwoman of the Kansas House Ag Committee. She says the bill makes a statement. Schwartz says state and regional conservation plans would be better than federal regulation, which could hurt industry.