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.
Conservation Easement Tax Breaks Under Increasing Scrutiny
Monday, August 26, 2019 – Earlier this year Senators Steve Daines and Debbie Stabenow introduced S. 170, the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act, which would place new restrictions on the ability of partnerships of unrelated people to claim the federal conservation easement tax break. Critics of the practice that a small handful of “syndicators” abuse the tax break by gathering investors to form pass-through partnerships to buy land, obtain inflated appraisals, and then get conservation easements the investors use to reduce their tax liabilities. The syndicators are essentially selling the deductions.
Recent reports by the Brookings Institution and ProPublica found the practice rampant and growing, to the tune of billions of dollars in tax breaks. Senate Finance Committee Chair Grassley and ranking member Wyden launched an investigation into the practice earlier this year while the IRS and the Department of Justice are taking actions to crack down on the scheme to prevent abuse of this popular charitable deduction.
Congress enacted the conservation easement deduction in 1976, and it has facilitated the conservation of millions of acres of land since then. The intent was to encourage farmers, forest owners, developers, and other private landowners to keep some areas undeveloped by offsetting some of the costs of doing so. The result is to obtain many benefits of conservation without the government buying and attempting to maintain more land than it is already responsible for. According to Senator Daines, “The conservation easement tax incentive is meant to help conserve land and protect family farms, not be used as a tax shelter.”
The Daines-Stabenow bill would be retroactive to the IRS December 2016 guidance document aimed at curtailing abuse of the deduction. In July the Joint Committee on Taxation, the congressional body that estimated that the legislation would generate $6.6 billion in federal revenue over ten years.
USFWS Agrees to Complete Lesser Prairie-Chicken Status Assessment in 2021
Tuesday, September 17, 2019 — On September 16, 2019 United States District Judge for the District of Columbia Rudolph Contreras entered an order adopting an agreement between the Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Wild Earth Guardians, and the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that requires USFWS to submit a species status 12-month finding for the Lesser prairie-chicken (LPC) to the Federal Register no later than May 26, 2021. The parties reached the agreement on September 12th.
The LPC had been listed as threatened in 2014, but that listing was overturned on procedural grounds. KNRC participated in that successful litigation with an amicus brief.
The plaintiffs had originally petitioned USFWS in September 2016, and the agency released a 90-day finding that the LPC may warrant listing in November of that year. Subsequently, USFWS failed to complete a 12-month finding prior to the September 2017 deadline for doing so.
On February 14, 2019 the plaintiffs sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue the Department of Interior for its failure to comply with the deadline for completing the 12-month review for the LPC. They then filed their complaint on June 12th of this year. The parties, wishing to compromise and settle the plaintiffs’ claims, entered into a stipulated agreement on September 12th for completion of the species status review no later than May 26, 2021.
The 12-month review will result in one of three alternatives as to whether the petitioned action (ESA listing of the Lesser prairie-chicken is: (a) not warranted; (b) warranted; or (c) warranted but precluded but precluded by other pending proposals. If USFWS finds that listing is warranted, a new ESA listing process will be initiated. If listing is found to be warranted but precluded, the LPC will remain on the candidate list for periodic review.
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.