Topeka Federal listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species continued to ruffle the feathers of some Kansas legislators.
On Tuesday, a House committee approved a bill that would allow Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt to take legal action against the federal government if it tried to enforce federal law to protect the lesser prairie chicken.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife announced it was putting the lesser prairie chicken on its threatened list because of a steep drop in the bird's population and loss of habitat. Gov. Sam Brownback said his administration would try to reverse the decision through litigation.
State Rep. Sharon Schwartz, R-Washington, and chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, said the threatened listing would have a "devastating" impact on the state.
Earlier in the legislative session, the Senate approved a bill that would have allowed state officials to arrest federal officials and charge them with felonies if they tried to enforce protections for the bird.
Schwartz took up that measure Tuesday but said there was a lot of apprehension about the criminal penalties.
She pushed forward an amendment that removed the criminal penalty and substituted it with a provision allowing the attorney general's office to try to block enforcement through the judicial system.
Ron Klataske, executive director of Audubon of Kansas, said Schwartz's bill was better than the Senate-approved version, but he described the measure as "garbage in and still garbage coming out."
He said the reaction by Brownback and some legislators to the "threatened" listing has been off the mark.
The lesser prairie chicken is in real decline, he said, and Fish and Wildlife has given Kansas and other states great leeway in trying to restore the bird's population.