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Kansas is just on a roll this year.   Not a day goes by where something crazy isn't part of the major news cycle.  

That’s the battle being waged in Kansas as a series of bills makes its way through the Legislature.

At stake: whether wildlife and environmentally sensitive land will continue to be protected or conservation management will give way to development, energy and agricultural interests.

Backers of the measures see them as a sound defense against unreasonable environmental rules. Opponents view them differently.

“If these bills go through,” said Ron Klataske, executive director of Audubon of Kansas, “they could change conservation management as we know it in Kansas.

“There’s never been an assault of this nature, in my memory, and I’ve been involved in the state’s conservation issues since 1970.”

Read more here:

Kansas is about to decide whether or not enforcing the endangered species act, and in some bills EPA policy is allowed within Kansas.    We'd like to start chosing to 'Opt Out' of federal policy that we don't agree with.

Kobach believes this is an important step to take, arguing that this is a fight worth having with the feds.

“This designation has the potential to decimate the economy in western Kansas,” Kobach said in a telephone interview with The Star on Thursday before the listing was announced. “Agriculture, ranching, wind energy, fossil fuels — they would all be restricted. And this at a time when the economy in that part of the state is fragile already.

“We just don’t think this listing is justified.”

He said the bill he drafted is intended to set up a lawsuit against the federal government.

“It’s a fight worth fighting,” Kobach said.

You read that correctly.  Kansas wants another shot at the courthouse to trump the feds, spend taxpayer money in yet another burn of taxpayer funds.   This will make - by my count - at least the fifth piece of Kansas legislation that is specifically designed with the goal of spending state money in a federal courthouse.

Opting out of the Endangered Species Act is just one of the four pieces of legislation being proposed to alter environmental policy in the state of Kansas.

The first, drafted by Secretary of State Kris Kobach and introduced by a legislative committee, would challenge the federal Endangered Species Act, especially in regard to the lesser prairie chicken, which was designated Thursday as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The designation, Kobach has said, could have “enormous consequences” for western Kansas, rendering thousands of acres protected from development. Kobach wants the responsibility of managing non-migratory wildlife, such as the lesser prairie chicken, left up to state jurisdiction.

The bill would make it a felony for any federal worker to participate in a recovery program for the lesser prairie chicken in Kansas.

• A second bill would threaten existing conservation easements, which today protect tens of thousands of acres of unique territory in Kansas, particularly some of the nation’s last remaining tracts of prairie in the Flint Hills.

• A third would repeal the Kansas Nongame and Endangered Species Act of 1975, in turn eliminating special protection for 60 species now designated as threatened or endangered in Kansas.

• The final measure is pretty straightforward: It would allow landowners rights to wildlife (in particular, antlers from trophy deer) taken illegally on their land. Currently, wildlife poached from someone’s land must be surrendered to the state.

So let's cover what is going on here:

Any government worker for the department of the interior who does their job will be prosecuted for committing a felony in the state of Kansas.

If you, as a land owner, have given your property over to conservation status as part of an easement that easement now no longer lasts in perpetuity, future land owners, or buyouts can remove it from the easement... which may also include trusted easements that could be gobbled up by corporate farming entities.

We'll stop recognizing 60 animals as endangered, but more importantly we will replace it by no standard at all to recognize any endangered animal in the state of Kansas.

Finally, the fourth piece of legislation allows for 'back door' poaching.  In the past, animals poached or shot beyond the limit were taken by the state.  Now, the animals are given to the property owner, penalties are made non-existent.  So the idea of hunting limits becomes questionable when there are no penalties to over hunting trophy animals.

So, how does something like this happen?

The Senate Natural Resources Committee was meeting to discuss a bill that would remove redbelly and smooth earth snakes from protection under the Kansas Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act. Developers and utility interests in Johnson County had lobbied for the move, claiming that the snakes’ protected status curtailed their ability to develop otherwise usable land.

Committee chairman Larry Powell, a Republican from Garden City, amended the snakes bill to repeal the Kansas Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act. He then tacked the provisions of the bill onto an unrelated measure that had already passed in the Kansas House and now needs only Senate approval.

“It (the state endangered species act) has been costing a lot of people across the state economic development,” Powell said in a recent Associated Press article.

The maneuver was permissible under Kansas legislative rules, and is relatively common, but Klataske called it “stealth attack.”

“The problem is,” Klataske said, “that Kansans in recent years have gotten lackadaisical about what is going on in the Legislature.

In the end, developers and advisors wanted two animals removed from the Kansas Endangered list.   Two animals that, thanks to studies and work over the years there may be reason to believe aren't endangered at this point.    Instead of debating whether or not the population and protection level had worked for those two animals, the Republican House and Senate used this opportunity to decide that Kansas should not acknowledge the Federal Endangered Species Act, consider those who manage it potential felons, end conservation easements and promote poaching.

I can't think of any time in my memory where I've had to discuss the blindsiding of the Audubon society.   Klatske's end analysis nails the point:   Kansans have stopped paying attention to the kind of legislation going through the state house.   Too many citizens just assume what is going on in Topeka is 'OK'.  

Someone asked me why I write diaries about Kansas so frequently.   There is a simple answer:  If just one Kansan reads what is going on and thinks "I can't sit on my hands and just accept this" then it's all worthwhile.

Despite the negative view of this state, Kansas to me has some beautiful country.   Sitting out in an empty field or a conservation at night and listening to the animals while you have a perfect view of the sky is the kind of treasure I hope to pass on to my kids.  

Kobach and his ilk have used a bald faced lie, a distortion of reality in order to scare Kansans with the myth that the federal government is out to get them, that the EPA and the Endangered Species Act are just boogeymen.   He tells people their way of life may end if they don't fight the federal government.

“There are currently 14 species that are federally listed as threatened or endangered in Kansas, and the sky hasn’t fallen,” Klataske said. “There has been a lot of misinformation spread around. This wouldn’t result in an economic disaster. It would benefit Kansas as a whole.”
Instead of reasonable debate, we'll just start threatening to lock up federal employees and promote poaching.   Sound environmental policy from the Brownback administration.

Originally posted to Kansas & Missouri Kossacks on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 08:07 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight and DK GreenRoots.

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