By Holly Martin
High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal
July 21, 2014

Walking among the implements and new services on display at the 3i Show, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback had the chance to visit with farmers and ranchers from across the state.

The topics of interest were of no surprise to him or others involved in Kansas agriculture: the lesser prairie-chicken and water. Brownback took the 3i Show opportunity to hold a press conference July 10 to announce the two latest moves by his administration on the two issues.

“Here in Kansas we continue to see a huge overreach by the federal government,” Brownback said. “An intrusion that directly affects our livelihoods and our rights as all Kansas. We have already taken several steps in response to the recent actions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concerning the listing of the lesser prairie-chicken as a threatened species.”

The most recent move by the state of Kansas is to develop plans for captive breeding of the lesser prairie-chicken. The program will be under the umbrellas of Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

This is not the first time for a lesser prairie-chicken breeding program. In the 1950s, the population varied widely and a breeding program was implemented to help level out the population in tough years.

“We will consult with the best scientific sources available and interested Kansans. This has been tried with another species currently-the attwater prairie-chicken in southern Texas,” he said.

“We are going into this with our eyes wide open. We acknowledge there may be difficulties, but we think it is worth it to restore the chicken population and get the federal regulatory burden off the backs of Kansans as soon as possible.”

The program will require a section 10 permit from the federal government, but Brownback is hopeful the permit will be granted.

The lesser prairie-chicken environment has not been ideal over the last few years, but not through any fault of landowners, Brownback said. Widespread drought has caused a drop in the population. With recent rains in the western part of the state, the population had jumped 20 percent July 1, he said. “We were at optimal level of prairie-chickens as recently as seven years ago.”

In addition, Brownback pointed out if the federal government wants to increase the population of the lesser prairie-chicken, increasing Conservation Reserve Program acres would be a tremendous help.

“The CRP program has been one of the most beneficial things going for prairie-chicken habitat.”

In addition to the federal intrusion regarding the lesser prairie-chicken, the government is continuing to push its reach by the Environmental Protection Agency, Brownback said.

Under the “waters of the U.S.,” newly proposed definitions would extend federal jurisdiction beyond that authorized in the Clean Water Act and create the opportunity for federal intervention in upland practices.

“I believe it poses a real threat to Kansas and to the sovereignty to this state and to our people. Water has always been a state issue,” Brownback said. “There is no reason for the federal government to have further intrusion on the water rights of the state of Kansas. “

Brownback called the administration, “Oblivious to the real-world situations that we face.”

The problem with the proposed regulation, Brownback said, is the broad definitions including ponds, puddles and ditches under federal regulation. The EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was also on a campaign, touring the Midwest, in regard to the rule. She has been quoted as saying the intention of the rule is not that narrow.

Brownback disagrees, particularly on the point that water is a state issue.

Consequently, Brownback sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama asking him to withdraw the proposed rule and informing him that Kansas will challenge the rule in court. The governor also instructed Kansas Department of Agriculture and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to file formal comments against this regulation.

“Kansans have had enough of this kind of federal overreach,” he said.

Read the article here.