Kansas AG announces plan to sue Biden administration over lesser prairie chicken protections |
TOPEKA — Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach plans to sue President Joe Biden’s administration over the lesser prairie chicken, calling federal protection for the bird illegal and potentially devastating to landowners and businesses in the state.
In an announcement Tuesday, Kobach said listing the bird as a threatened species failed to address Kansas’ conservation and mitigation efforts and that state wildlife officials were already working with landowners to conserve the species.
“The listing of this species by the Biden administration will have a devastating impact on ranchers, oil producers and wind farms in Kansas. It’s also illegal,” said Kobach. “Kansas will lead the fight against this Biden administration overreach.”
The US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the lesser prairie chicken as threatened in Kansas in November. The agency said it will identify areas of critical habitat for the bird. Kobach sent a letter to the US Secretary of the Interior and the US Director of Fish and Wildlife in late November, submitting the 60-day period required by law about his intention to file a lawsuit.
Kobach said the listing would restrict energy pipelines, road placement, cattle grazing and other developments, including oil drilling. In the letter, he argued that rainfall was affecting bird populations and that fewer prairie chickens would recover after the state’s current drought ended.
Known for its colorful springtime mating dance, the bird is found in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. The listing comes after years of campaigning by wildlife advocates, including a lawsuit by three conservation groups in 2019. An estimated 90% of the bird’s habitat — uninterrupted expanses of native grasses — has disappeared. Only 32,000 smaller prairie chickens remain.
Kobach is not alone in his fight against bird protection. The Kansas Senate took emergency action on Jan. 23 to pass a resolution condemning federal protection of the little prairie chicken.
Nationally, Republican congressmen have fought safeguards through a Congressional Review Act. The law is used to block rules issued by federal agencies. By law, an agency must submit a report of its rule to Congress. Upon receipt of the report, Congress may submit and respond to a joint rejection decision.
Ten Republican congressmen from Oklahoma and Kansas expressed their disapproval of the bill’s listing and sought to overturn the ruling on the grounds that it would be bad for agriculture and the oil and gas industry. US Senators from Kansas Roger Marshall and Jerry Moran were part of the action along with Representatives Ron Estes, Jake LaTurner and Tracey Mann. Moran, Marshall and Mann also condemned the listing when the US Fish and Wildlife Service first issued it.