County commission wants input on prairie chicken

Jon McRoberts

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Finney County commissioners are asking the federal government to ensure they will have input into regulations for the lesser prairie chicken, which was designated last month as a threatened species.

The commission sent a letter Monday to the Bureau of Land Management asking for coordinating status while the agency revises its management plan for the lesser prairie chicken and its habitat. The federal agency had asked in a letter for input from Kansas counties affected by the decision, but commissioners were unhappy that the letter mentioned cooperation, rather than coordination, The Garden City Telegram reported (http://bit.ly/PYs59S ).

“It sounds to me like they don’t want us to participate in anything. They’re gonna cover us up with fluff and do what they want to do,” Commissioner Larry Jones said.

The decision to list the bird as threatened is unpopular in Kansas, with the state joining a lawsuit filed by Oklahoma against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, challenging the agency’s process in considering the listing. The lawsuit contends the listing isn’t necessary because the five states with lesser prairie chicken habitats — Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas — worked for several years with the federal agency on a conservation plan.

The county’s letter was proposed by Jim Carlson, executive director of the Kansas National Resource Coalition, which has been working for more than a year with 32 western Kansas counties to develop a conservation plan for the lesser prairie chicken.

Carlson told the commission that having coordinating status would require the Bureau of Land Management to consider the county’s concerns because it had previously adopted a Natural Resource Coordination Plan that includes ways to evaluate impacts caused by federal action such as the listing of the prairie chicken. He said having coordinating status would allow the county to ask questions and slow the process of listing the bird, which won’t take effect until May 1.

“You have a land use plan in place that if you invoke coordination, the Bureau of Land Management has to attempt consistency with it,” he said.

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Information from: The Garden City (Kan.) Telegram, http://www.gctelegram.com

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