Who We Are
The Kansas Natural Resource Coalition (KNRC) is a collaboration of county governments who engage state and federal agencies during environment and natural resource administrative rule-making processes.
Our members understand the limited role of these agencies, the legal parity enjoyed by local government, and that state and federal procedural mandates require balancing of economic, social, cultural and property interests during the outworking of natural resource policy efforts.
When agencies propose rules for our region, we first investigate the statutory basis for the proposal, a process we call “Show Us The Law.” Because many administrative agencies believe they have the authority to enact law, we do not accept regulations, policies or memoranda as binding until a clear statutory connection has been established. Similarly, because courts Don’t Make Law, KNRC does not accept opinions, decisions or definitions of courts as sufficient by themselves to justify administrative proposals; we believe the legislative branch of governments to be the sole organic source of lawmaking.
How We Work
KNRC is comprised of elected commissioners from individual member counties, an executive director, a research analyst, a communications analyst and retained professional and legal staff on an as-needed basis.
Day-to-day operations are overseen by a steering committee that in turn reports to a policy committee governed by all member counties.
Each KNRC county has adopted a Natural Resource Land Use Plan that by federal statute requires review, coordination and consistency by federal agencies desiring to impose rules in the jurisdictional areas governed by those counties.
This approach maintains local voice, assures mutual access to data and science, provides a platform for genuine transparency, and ensures balanced decision-making for both the human and natural environments.
Why it’s Effective
Navigating the maze of environmental rule-makings is daunting for even the most resolved of local governments — let alone the balance of America’s 3,000-plus counties.
KNRC’s excellent research, clear understanding of administrative procedure, dogged adherence to statutory requirements and tactical application of coordination brings clarity to the process and accountability to federal agencies who have grown accustomed to bypassing — or dismissing entirely — the needs of local government.
Our philosophy, strategic plan, and long-term objectives include training, equipping and exhibiting hard-won examples for local governments across the nation. History teaches that centralized, top-down, and autocratic governments don’t work for the long term, ultimately reverting back to local control.
Only local government — not industry, not associations, and particularly not nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) — are permitted to leverage accountability from federal administrative agencies during natural resource policy rule-makings.
USFWS Proposes to List the Eastern Black Rail as Threatened
Wednesday, March 27, 2019 – In late 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a 12-month finding for a petition to list the Eastern black rail (Laterallus jamaicensis jamaicensis) subspecies as threatened with an ESA 4(d) rule.
This small wetland-dwelling migratory bird occurs in as many as 35 states, Puerto Rico, and several nations around the Caribbean. Kansas is one of those states and is host to a confirmed breeding population.
The USFWS pre-rule proposal was published in the Federal Register in October 2018, and information received during that phase is now being considered for the proposed listing rule that is expected to go out for public comment later this year.
Reclusive and easily disturbed, there is a lack of reliable information on the bird’s population throughout its range. There are thought to be between 25,000 – 100,000, but accuracy confidence is quite low.
Threats to the bird include habitat loss and degradation, invasive plant species, predation, and grazing. A listing would include significant impacts to agricultural activities including haying and grazing.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) provided substantive comment to USFWS regarding the proposed pre-rule citing significant concerns about the limited information available to support sound management decisions, USFWS failure to prioritize obtaining additional information, and the significant consequences of proposed activity restrictions. KDWPT was also very troubled that several proposed management actions for the Eastern black rail are in direct conflict with the management activities required for other listed species, including the whooping crane.
KNRC staff are actively monitoring this listing process.
KNRC’s PECE Case Gets a Boost from the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho –
Wednesday, March 6, 2019 — On April 10, 2018, the Kansas Natural Resource Coalition filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to submit its Policy for Evaluating Conservation Efforts (PECE Rule) for congressional review under the mandates of the Congressional Review Act. The following day, Tugaw Ranches, LLC, located in Idaho, filed suit against the Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service for failing to submit four records of decision (RODs) for land use plan amendments implementing the agencies’ sage-grouse plans.
The agencies filed motions to dismiss both suits for lack of jurisdiction. On November 29, 2018, the United States District Court for the District of Idaho heard oral argument and took the government’s motion under advisement.
On February 25, 2019, Chief U.S. District Court Judge David Nye denied the government’s motion to dismiss, finding that there is no clear prohibition of judicial review of agency action under the CRA and that the court has jurisdiction to hear the claims at issue in the Tugaw Ranches case.
In his ruling, Judge Nye stated that “Reading judicial review out of the CRA foils its primary purpose. Congress enacted the APA and CRA to act as a check and balance on agency action. Reading the statute in such a way as to foreclose that option—even more specifically to foreclose that option just for the agencies—arbitrarily gives said agencies more power than originally intended.”
Judge Nye’s decision is much more significant than typical decisions on motions to dismiss because once judicial review is established, CRA claims are clear-cut: (1) is the rule excluded from the CRA’s reach?; and (2) was it submitted for congressional review? In Tugaw Ranches, the answer to both questions is “no.” In KNRC’s PECE case, the answers are also both “no.”
So, on February 27th, KNRC’s attorneys filed a notice of supplemental authority to the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, where our PECE case is being heard, to assist the court in its upcoming decision on the government’s substantially identical motion to dismiss. Judge Nye’s very thorough review of the law and statements of congressional intent will undoubtedly be helpful to the court hearing KNRC’s case.
We invite you to read the notice of supplemental authority and Judge Nye’s decision.
Activist Groups Issue 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue USFWS for Failure to Issue a 12-month Finding on their Petition to List the Lesser Prairie-Chicken as Threatened or Endangered Under Endangered Species Act
Thursday, February 14, 2019 — Today, The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Defenders of Wildlife (DW), and WildEarth Guardians (WEG) issued a 60-day notice of their intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service USFWS) for failing to issue a 12-month finding on the groups’ 2016 petition to list the Lesser prairie-chicken as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The original 2014 LPC listing was vacated in 2015 by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Permian Basin Petroleum Association v. Department of the Interior. KNRC participated in that suit with an amicus curiae brief.
Instead of appealing the court’s ruling, USFWS filed a motion to amend the judgment asking that instead of vacating the listing, the court retain the ESA protections and remand the listing decision to USFWS for further review. The court rejected that request on February 29, 2016. It took USFWS until July 20, 2016 to formally remove the LPC from the ESA’s list of threatened and endangered species.
The activist groups then petitioned again for listing the LPC on September 8, 2016, triggering a 90-day review that resulted in a finding on November 30, 2016 that listing of the LPC may be warranted. That finding triggered the 12-month review that USFWS has still not completed.
Upon completion of the 60-day waiting period, the petitioning groups may initiate their intended lawsuit against USFWS, unless the agency remedies the groups’ complaints against it.
Click here for The Center for Biological Diversity’s press release publicly announcing the groups’ notice of intent to sue.
Click here for the groups’ notice of intent to sue letter.