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.
National Heritage Area Proposed for 26 Kansas and 23 Nebraska Counties
Wednesday, April 21, 2021 — In 2016 a group of University of Nebraska-Lincoln students partnered with the Willa Cather Foundation to investigate expanding regional heritage tourism opportunities in South Central Nebraska and North Central Kansas. They produced an extensive inventory and planning document recommending the region be designated a National Heritage Area. What is now the Kansas Nebraska Heritage Area Partnership (KNHAP) expanded on that initial effort starting in 2017 with the goal of establishing a national heritage area within the 49-county region. They issued a white paper about their work in early 2020. The partnership developed a mission to “identify, protect and preserve the natural, cultural, and recreational heritage of the Kansas Nebraska region.”
KNRC began monitoring the project in early 2018, sharing a briefing paper to its members in June 2018.
A recent article published by KNCK Community Connections introduced KNHAP and their mission. KNHAP is in the process of establishing non-profit status in both states so that it can raise the funding needed for conducting the required feasibility study that provides the National Park Service and Congress with the information required to justify Congressional designation of the proposed NHA.
The early public stages of the proposal is drawing opposition from many, at least partly based on NHA proposal and implementation processes in other parts of the nation. Because there is no general federal statute providing for NHA establishment, management, and funding, there is criticism that the process is inconsistent and fragmented. Detailed NHA information and references are included in the March 24. 2021 edition of the Congressional Research Service’s Heritage Areas: Background, Proposals, and Current Issues.
KNRC staff will continue to monitor the KNHAP proposal’s progress and notify members of significant developments.
Comment Period Open for Lesser Prairie-Chicken Incidental Take Permit Application and Renewable Energy, Power Line, and Communication Tower Habitat Conservation Plan
Thursday, April 22, 2021 — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that LPC Conservation LLC has applied for an incidental take permit (ITP) supported by the Renewable (Wind and Solar) Energy, Power Line, and Communication Tower Habitat Conservation Plan for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken; Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas (HCP). If approved, the ITP would authorize incidental take of the lesser prairie-chicken (LPC) resulting from activities covered by the HCP. The ITP would become effective should the LPC become ESA-listed during the life of the ITP and HCP.
An ITP is a permit issued by FWS to private nonfederal entities conducting otherwise lawful projects that might result in the take of an ESA-listed species, so long as the taking is incidental to and not the purpose of an otherwise lawful activity.
FWS initiated a public comment period for the ITP application and the HCP that will close on May 14, 2021. Written comments are to be submitted by email to email@example.com. Additional information is included in the Federal Register article. Related documents include:
- Questions and Answers: Lesser Prairie-Chicken Renewable Energy Habitat Conservation Plan for LPC Conservation LLC
- Renewable (Wind and Solar) Energy, Power Line, and Communication Tower Habitat Conservation Plan for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken
- DRAFT Environmental Assessment for the Renewable (Wind and Solar) Energy, Power Line, and Communication Tower Conservation Plan and Incidental Take Permit for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken
Lesser Prairie-Chicken Status Update
The current Unified Agenda entry published for the LPC indicates that FWS intends to initiate a listing determination for the LPC following the 12-month finding, currently scheduled for publication May 26, 2021. KNRC has previously reported on the LPC species status assessment here and here.
Senator Moran Introduces Bill to Designate the Chisholm and Western National Historic Trails
Wednesday, April 14, 2021 — Today Senator Jerry Moran Introduced S. 1112, A bill to amend the National Trails System Act to designate the Chisholm National Historic Trail and the Western National Historic Trail, and for other purposes. In the House, Representative Ron Estes introduced a House companion bill, H.R. 2512. These bills replace those introduced in November 2020 (S. 4905 and H.R. 8771). Official text for the House version has not yet been published.
The proposed trails would extend through 22 Kansas counties, and segments would be present in 78 counties through portions of four states.
In 2009 Congress authorized a NEPA feasibility study, and in 2016 the National Park Service (NPS) issued a finding of no significant impact and proposed designating two NHTs as a single administrative unit. The final feasibility study and environmental assessment were not transmitted to Congress until mid-2019.
If Congress designates the proposed NHTs, NPS must complete a comprehensive management plan (CMP) within two years of designation. NPS Director’s Order (DO) 45 requires the CMP to “… identify the minimum level of regulation necessary to protect the resources and attributes …” that warranted designation.
KNRC has been monitoring S. 1112 and H.R. 2512. Staff reported on the NHT proposal to member counties in late summer of 2020 and provided a webinar to members and other key parties. While improvements beneficial to property owners have been made to the legislation, a statutory “no net loss” provisions may be necessary to ensure that donated lands removed from county tax rolls are compensated under the federal Payment in Lieu of Tax (PILT) system. KNRC has currently not taken a position on S. 1112 or H.R. 2512.