Archive for Saturday, April 5, 2014

Work on lesser prairie chicken bill will continue in the wrap-up session

April 5, 2014


— Legislation aimed at keeping the federal government out of Kansas' lesser prairie chicken problems has been delayed and will be considered again during the wrap-up session, which starts April 30.

Different bills addressing the issue were in a House-Senate conference committee, and the House leader of that committee, state Rep. Sharon Schwartz, R-Washington, had an excused absence from the legislative session Saturday to attend a funeral. Legislators were hoping to end the regular session this weekend before returning for the wrap-up session at the end of the month.

State Sen. Larry Powell, R-Garden City, said the conference committee will pick up negotiations when the session resumes.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared the lesser prairie chicken a "threatened" species because of an alarming drop off in the bird's population in a five-state region, including Kansas.

Gov. Sam Brownback has directed the attorney general's office to file a lawsuit seeking to block the designation.

Brownback has said the "threatened" listing will have a devastating economic impact on western Kansas because of more federal regulations, but environmentalists have said the designation is needed to help the bird recover and will actually help landowners by providing funding to help improve the lesser prairie chicken's habitat.

The Senate had approved a bill that would have made it a felony for a federal employee to try to enforce federal laws to protect the lesser prairie chicken.

But a proposal in the House removed the provision and substituted it with one that says the state could take legal action against the federal government if it tried to enforce federal law to protect the lesser prairie chicken.

Powell said he wants the Senate proposal in the final bill. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has also pushed for the Senate plan.


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