Kansas Wants to Exclude the Lesser Prairie Chicken from Federal Protection

Despite the stereotype, Kansas is actually a beautiful state. Sure, it’s flat. But there is something about the prairie landscape that’s incredibly soothing. I think it’s probably the most unappreciated attribute of the state. Too bad the state government is going out of its way to not protect it.

There is a bird called the lesser prairie chicken, and about half of its population lives in western Kansas. Their numbers have decreased dramatically recently, and the Obama administration has proposed that it become a protected species. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will have none of that.

The bill, SB 276, does a few things. Notably, it nullifies any law that seeks to regulate the lesser and greater prairie chicken, their habitats or farming practices. Furthermore, if any employee, official or corporation doing work for the federal government enforces a federal law regarding the lesser or greater prairie chicken they will have committed a level 10, nonperson felony.

That’s right. Any federal government official or employee who tries to enforce federal protections of the greater or lesser prairie chicken will be guilty of a felony under state law. Priorities.

What is so incredible about this is neither the lesser or greater prairie chicken is actually an endangered species, and the feds are only considering protections for the lesser prairie chicken. This is preemptive.

The lesser prairie chicken may not be a sexy species, like tigers or elephants, but monitoring them is important. The population has decreased dramatically, and that could indicate that something else has gone wrong. From Lawrence Journal-World:

According to Fish and Wildlife, the historical range of the Lesser Prairie Chickens has been reduced by 84 percent because of development and conversion of native grassland to agriculture.

“The decline of the Lesser Prairie Chicken sends a signal that native grasslands are in trouble. By taking actions to conserve the species, we can also restore the health of our native grasslands that support local economies and communities in addition to migratory birds and other wildlife,” the agency said.

The argument for the bill is that federal protection of the lesser prairie chicken will have a detrimental impact on agriculture, which is big in western Kansas. But flat refusal to allow the implementation of federal law is disturbing.

In addition, if this bill passes and is challenged in court, Kobach said the litigation could cost between $100,000 and $400,000. The state is cash-strapped as it is, and the state’s K-12 education budget has been slashed. But hey, there’s always money for litigation.

It’s all very disappointing. In some ways, it’s even more disappointing than the recently passed resolution denying climate change because this is less of an obvious metaphorical photo op and could have real consequences.

Photo Credit: Larry Lamsa via Flickr


Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

Gayle J. I believed that also about Fed law. That is why there is the issue on pot in some states and why Cal had to fight Feds over the shark finning rule from NOAA (I think). The new rule would have over ridden state rule and would have been less strict than the current state law. I guess laws are only laws when convenient.

angela l.
Angela L3 years ago

it's so sad that people are so greedy and ignorant. Maybe they want to put that prairie chicken on the list for hunting and eat them as turkey!! One of these days, when no other animals left on the planet, then they even kill human; I'm not surprise.

Lynn C.
Lynn C3 years ago


Kelvin L.
Kelvin L.3 years ago

If you're an IL resident and nature lover this should concern you. Lesser Prairie Chickens are brought from Kansas to help support the state endangered IL population.

US populations of Prairie Chickens are native species replaced by the non-native Chinese Ring-necked Pheasant (funny how the Chinese part has dropped from the common name of this game species). The ring-necked pheasant was introduced for hunting purposes and directly competes against the prairie chicken for habitat and is much more efficient and hardy.

It's amazing what states will sacrifice education for... Kansas and Idaho seem to have something in common...

Danuta Watola
Danuta W3 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

Ron B.
Ron B3 years ago

How about Republican chicken hawks instead? This is a worthless species that should have been excluded from federal protection long ago.

Debbie Tate
Debra Tate3 years ago

These people are "stuck on stupid" to let this happen!

Terry King
Terry King3 years ago

This is just criminally stupid!

Jan N.
Jan N3 years ago

The Kansas landscape is miles and miles of miles and miles, so if by soothing you mean hypnotically boring, I agree. The state government on the other hand, is ugly as sin and definitely not boring, but not in a good way.