Gov. Sam Brownback’s letter to Don Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, dated Jan. 30, 2014
Dear Director Ashe:
The state of Kansas has much at stake in the Service’s decision regarding the lesser prairie chicken. The listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species is not justified at this time, and doing so would negatively impact the state’s agriculture and energy sectors in ways that can be avoided consistent with the interests of conservation and protection of the species. For those reasons, Kansas will be a strong advocate for independent judicial review of any decision to list the lesser prairie chicken.
Over half of the lesser prairie chicken population is typically located in Kansas, which also provides half of the occupied range of the species. Indeed, as recently as 2006, the Kansas population was at optimal levels. As is well known, Kansas and the other four states that are home to the lesser prairie chicken have experienced three consecutive years of severe drought. The recent decline in bird numbers is no doubt directly linked to this unique weather event.
With continued abatement of the drought, bird numbers are likely to recover. In addition, Kansas and the other states in the range have developed a multi-state Range-wide Conservation Plan, which facilitates recovery strategies as a substitute to the listing of the species. Additional Kansas stakeholder groups have proposed further strategies such as the Habitat Exchange Program, and multiple voluntary strategies and options like these will promote species recovery.
In short, the recent drought conditions should not serve as a basis for species listing. A return to normal weather and precipitation conditions, along with the ongoing and proposed conservation efforts, should mitigate any perceived need to list the species. In contrast, listing of the species and the accompanying protections would directly impact and jeopardize Kansas’ largest industries — agriculture and energy. The interests of conservation and protection of the species can be furthered without the heavy-handed measures that could accompany a federal listing.
While I am hopeful that you will agree that the criteria for listing are not satisfied here, Kansas stands ready to make the case in judicial review proceedings to oppose and challenge any listing. Thank you for your consideration.
Governor of the state of Kansas