Lesser Prairie-Chicken Population Continuing to Grow
Thursday, January 17, 2019 – The annual Lesser prairie-chicken (LPC) population report has been issued and is available for downloading. It finds that LPC numbers continue to increase, and that the population is now at its highest level since annual counts began in 2012 during a record-setting drought.
The annual aerial survey was overseen by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA). WAFWA’s objective is to estimate the range-wide population size over time.
From 2012 to 2018 the estimated LPC population has ranged from the 2013 low of 15,019 to 2018’s high of 40,111, with a 90% confidence interval for the survey’s accuracy. The annual survey’s accuracy is improving, and now uses a more precise spatially explicit method that is more time-intensive than the previously used conventional methodology.
In addition to estimating the number of birds, the report also estimated the relationship between LPC abundance and environmental covariates. Development-related covariates had either no discernable relationship or negative relationships. Vegetation-related covariates had mixed effects, with cropland and woodlands having either no discernable relationship or negative relationships with LPC abundance and grasslands and shrublands having either no discernable relationship or positive relationships. CRP-enrolled lands had either no discernable relationships or positive relationships.
The researchers acknowledge that evaluation of existing conservation actions is not a strong point of the report, but that understanding the effectiveness of conservation efforts is imperative to successful wildlife management. This is best achieved through manipulative experiments. They have identified this as an area for improvement, though acknowledging that stakeholder support may be difficult to obtain, and that developing a broad-scale field experiment may be prohibitively expensive.
KNRC Policy Meeting Features Presentations by USFWS and Pacific Legal Foundation –
Thursday, December 6, 2018 – Today, the KNRC Policy Committee held its winter meeting in Garden City, with a full agenda that included several updates on key wildlife and policy projects that KNRC is involved with.
Presentations began with a policy round table featuring officials from KNRC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Kansas Farm Bureau (KFB). The round table began with an update on the Lesser prairie-chicken (LPC) species status review, the annual LPC population counts, and a forward-looking policy update. This was followed by an update on the USFWS Black-footed ferret introduction program in Logan County. The county has been in communication with USFWS over concerns with the program. Finally, the round table finished up with information on the overdue species status review for the Arkansas River shiner.
Next up was an update from the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) on KNRC’s litigation with USFWS on the agency’s policy for the evaluation of conservation efforts (PECE). KNRC’s suit requests that the policy be submitted to Congress for review under the mandates of the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Success in the case would provide certainty to landowners that their habitat conservation efforts would be taken into meaningful consideration during Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing processes. PLF attorney Jonathan Wood provided an update on the case and a timeline forecast.
The presentations were rounded out with discussion on emerging issues around the local government revenue implications and impacts of recent Kansas Board of Tax Appeals (KBTA) decisions.
Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Update — Public Hearing in Kansas Scheduled
Monday, January 7, 2019 — On December 11, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) proposed a new definition of “waters of the United States” that clarifies federal authority under the Clean Water Act. The updated definition would replace the EPA’s 2015 definition that respects the limits of the Clean Water Act and provides states and landowners the certainty they need to manage their natural resources and grow local economies. The proposed change defines the difference between federally protected waterways and state protected waterways for the first time. The simplified definition would help landowners understand whether a project on their property will require a federal permit or not without having to spend thousands of dollars on engineering and consultants and attorneys.
The proposed revised definition was signed on December 11, 2018, and can be downloaded from the EPA website. The site also has additional resources outlining the agencies’ Step Two — Proposed Revised Definition of “Waters of the United States” that include links supporting documents and opportunities to participate in the rulemaking process.
A 60-day public comment period will open once the proposed revision is officially published in the Federal Register. The regulations.gov website will host all the documentation for the project, with opportunity for interested members of the public to comment. You can access the docket folder at Revised Definition of “Waters of the United States” Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OW-2018-0149.
EPA and USACE have scheduled a public hearing on the proposed revision at the Reardon Convention Center in Kansas City, Kansas on Wednesday, January 23, 2019 starting at 1:00 pm, ending no later than 8:00 pm. Additional information is available in the Federal Register notice published December 18, 2018. Online pre-registration is available for the event, and the last day to pre-register to speak at the hearing is January 17, 2019.