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.
Counties See Results From KNRC Rails/Trails Accountability Program
In fall 2019, the Kansas Natural Resource Coalition (KNRC) released its Rails-to-Trails Accountability Program for Local Government (R2T). This new and innovative program – three years in the making – was developed as an on-the-ground tool for counties to monitor rail-trail projects and hold trail managers accountable for tax liabilities, invasive species control, insurance requirements, or access issues through a federal permit tracking and reporting system.
In June, 2020 KNRC member Clark County realized immediate results from adoption of the comprehensive KNRC R2T program. At issue in Clark County’s case was an insufficient Response by Sunflower Rails to Trails Conservancy (SRTC) to fire and erosion threats posed to the Angle Creek bridge from debris accumulations at an abandoned railroad trestle. Following several months and a limited response by SRTC, the Clark county commissioners elected to impose insurance and maintenance requirements upon SRTC to garner action to the threats and facilitate control of invasive plants along the rail-trail alignment.
Rather than meet obligations of their permit and the requirements imposed by Clark County, SRTC has elected to relinquish their federal NITU permit. If approved by the Surface Transportation Board, the Short Grass Prairie Trail (SGPT) will be removed from rail banking and once again be subject to abandonment or reversion to adjacent landholders.
Having been tested and proven effective, the KNRC Rails-to-Trails Accountability Program for Local Government program is now being made available to county governments across the United States who wish to participate, monitor, and facilitate compliance from rail-trail managers with their with federal permits.
US Senate releases Scathing Analysis of Conservation Easement Transactions
August 26 2020 — Today, the US Senate Subcommittee on Finance released its long anticipated, Bipartisan Investigative Report on Syndicated Conservation-Easement Transactions. The newly-minted and scathing analysis of conservation easement transactions details dozens of transactions which provide no conservation benefit other than to secure a favorable tax shelter for high-income taxpayers. In some cases, as presented in the report, property appraisals were inflated at several times the actual land value in order to multiple the tax deduction:
“The transactions discussed in this report involve land valuations that appear so inflated above their original purchase prices that they cannot reasonably be characterized as anything other than abusive tax shelters. Despite the formal documentation developed by the promoters and nominal votes by investors, documents obtained in this investigation clearly show that both the promoters and the taxpayer-investors in these deals understood them simply as tax shelters.“
Although the Investigative report well documents conservation easement transactions across the eastern and central United States, the findings do not mention the vast and longstanding abuses in Colorado discovered at a KNRC Public Hearing as far back as 2014. Consequently, the scope, range and breath of fraudulent transactions being conducted under the cloak of conservation is vastly understated.
Kansas Joins Multi-state Litigation Defending ESA Updates
Monday, December 9, 2019 —
Today, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt joined twelve other states in filing litigation defending new Trump administration rules that update the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The litigation, led by Attorney General Steve Marshall of Alabama, defends changes to ESA that allow for economic considerations, and did away with the “blanket 4(d) rule” – an unpopular rule that gave the US Fish and Wildlife Service wide ranging power to extend endangered protections to species that only have threatened status.