Kansas Senate adopts resolution condemning protection of lesser prairie chicken

By: - January 23, 2023 5:16 pm
Lesser prairie chicken perform dancing

Lesser prairie chicken perform dancing or “drumming” on a lek (mating display) in northern Oklahoma. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the lesser prairie chicken as threatened in Kansas and endangered in other portions of its range. (Getty Images)

TOPEKA — The Kansas Senate suspended rules and took emergency action Monday to adopt a resolution condemning federal protection of the lesser prairie chicken.

Sen. Dan Kerschen, a Garden Plain Republican, introduced the resolution on the Senate floor immediately before making the motion to take a vote. The Senate adopted the resolution, which is sponsored by 27 Republicans and one Democrat, without recording votes.

Wildlife advocates for years have fought to gain protection of the lesser prairie chicken, which can be found in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. An estimated 90% of the bird’s habitat — unbroken tracts of native grasses — is gone. Only 32,000 lesser prairie chickens remain.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in November listed the lesser prairie chicken as threatened in Kansas. The agency said it would determine areas of critical habitat for the bird.

Kansas Republicans in Congress said the listing would harm the operations of farmers, ranchers and energy producers.

Kerschen’s resolution calls on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the threatened designation.

“Those are serious accusations and serious recovery that has to be taken place,” Kerschen said during the two-minute Senate debate on the resolution.

Kerschen distributed copies of the resolution during a committee hearing last week, but didn’t formally introduce it until the Senate convened Monday. The action wasn’t scheduled on the Senate calendar.

Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, said she appreciated that Kerschen had shared copies of the resolution with other senators in advance of the vote.

“I do know that many farmers, ranchers and energy producers have worked to provide appropriate habitat for the lesser prairie chicken,” Francisco said. “On the other hand, I believe that control must be balanced and believe we need to make some more significant steps.”

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the 2021 and 2022 Kansas Press Association’s journalist of the year. He has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He previously spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He is a lifelong Kansan.

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