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.
USFWS Proposes Downlisting the American burying beetle
Wednesday, May 1, 2019 — On May 1, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed downlisting the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) from endangered to threatened with a 4(d) rule, which would be exempt from the ESA’s incidental take mandates. In Kansas, the species’ range includes Chautauqua, Elk, Labette, Montgomery, and Wilson counties.
In a statement, USFWS Southwest Regional Director said, “Working collaboratively for almost three decades with states, zoos, federal agencies, private landowners and others … we have made some positive steps forward and are now proposing to downlist the beetle.”
The proposed rule would exempt activities related to ranching and grazing in some parts of its range. Formerly found in 35 states, it is now found in nine states. Although now inhabiting about 10% of its historic range, USFWS says some threats to the species have been reduced sufficiently to warrant the downlisting.
The agency says, “We now know there are more populations over a much wider area relative to the time of listing,” noting, “… numerous searches and surveys have resulted in the discovery of additional American burying beetle occurrences … the species is currently represented by several populations with moderate to high resiliency that are distributed in several portions of the historical range.”
The American burying beetle has been listed as endangered since 1989, and has been at the center of controversy ever since. Industry groups and others petitioned the agency to delist the species in 2015. The petition states that “Many land development, agriculture, transportation, and pipeline and other utility operations have been delayed or restricted as a result of the presence of the beetle.
USFWS inaction on the original petition resulted in litigation to compel action filed by American Stewards of Liberty, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, and the Osage Producers Association in 2016.
Click here to download the proposed rule for downlisting the American burying beetle.
Click here to open the rulemaking docket and comment on the proposed rule.
Office of Management and Budget Issues New Guidance on the Information Quality Act
Thursday, April 25, 2019 — On April 24, 2019 the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued Memorandum M-19-15 to the heads of all executive departments and agencies on Improving Implementation of the Information Quality Act (also known as the Data Quality Act). The guidance updates standards for how executive branch agencies on the quality of information used for rulemaking. While many businesses and conservative organizations see this as an important first step toward improving problems experienced with how the Act has been implemented by some agencies, more progressive advocacy groups are unhappy that OMB did not consult with the science non-profit organizations they favor prior to issuing the memo.
OMB acting Director Russell Vought said the updated guidance is needed to “address changes in the information landscape and incorporate best practices developed over time.”
Rather than continuing to rely on a 2002 memo, all executive branch departments and agencies will now have to update their definitions of what qualifies as the influential information used in developing and updating rules. Information defined as influential is subject to more rigorous review than other types of information used in rulemaking procedures.
Agencies will need to provide more data to the public so that outside groups will have the information necessary to reproduce the results of the studies used in rulemaking. This includes making public the computer code used in data analysis. Reproducibility is essential in validating the science an agency is using to develop or implement a rule. At a minimum, agencies will have to share “specific methods, design parameter, equations or algorithms, parameters, and assumptions used” for the scientific information they use.
When challenged by the public on information that may not comply with agency guidelines, the agency will have to respond to technical questions within 120 days, sharing responses with OMB for review. People requesting changes will have an opportunity to appeal.
Agencies have 90 days from the date of the memo to issue their own guidelines for ensuring information quality in compliance with the memo’s parameters.
Click here to download a copy of the OMB memorandum.