TOPEKA Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday announced that Kansas will sue to try to stop the federal government from listing the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species.
"This is an overreach by the federal government and it's another example of the Obama administration aggressively and unnecessarily intruding into our daily lives," Brownback said at a news conference.
A day earlier, the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife ruled that the lesser prairie chicken was in danger of extinction.
The agency placed the bird on its threatened list but said that in an unprecedented move it would defer to Kansas and four other states the job of managing conservation efforts and avoiding further regulation.
Brownback said that isn't good enough.
"It's the declaration of threatened. That was the line we did not want them to come across," Brownback said.
Brownback's chief counsel, Grant Laue, said the threatened species designation could impact remediation that would be required to offset the effects of taking habitat from the species. Brownback said the threatened designation could have a huge impact on agriculture, oil, gas and wind energy transmission lines.
A spokeswoman for Fish and Wildlife said the agency doesn't comment on pending or ongoing litigation.
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Secretary Robin Jennison said the lesser prairie chicken was in temporary decline in Kansas due to drought and that once normal weather patterns returned, the species would rebound.
"Our scientists understand Kansas much better than theirs do," Jennison said, referring to Fish and Wildlife scientists.
Kansas will join Oklahoma, and possibly other states, in fighting the threatened declaration in court.
Fish and Wildlife said the lesser prairie chicken has been in rapid decline due largely to habitat loss and drought. Once abundant across Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado, the population declined last year to a record low of fewer than 18,000 birds, an almost 50 percent drop from 2012.
The states' conservation plan has a goal of reaching 67,000 birds range-wide.
Fish and Wildlife said threats impacting the species were likely to continue into the foreseeable future and warranted listing the bird as threatened.
The decision by Fish and Wildlife was praised by some environmentalists and opposed by others who said the oversight procedure had too many loopholes for the states.