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.
UFWS Finalizes Three ESA Rules
Thursday, August 12, 2019 – Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced improvements to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) implementing regulations on August 12th in Washington DC. The improvements are designed to increase transparency and effectiveness, bringing the ESA into the 21st century with the continued goal of recovering the nation’s rarest species. Increased effectiveness targets resources to on-the-ground conservation where they do the most good.
The revisions focus on ESA sections 4 and 7. Section 4 includes listing and delisting processes and designating critical habitat. Section 7 covers consultations with other agencies.
Listings remain based solely on the best available scientific and commercial information. The revisions clarify that species proposed for reclassification or delisting are considered based on the same five statutory factors as their listing.
Critical habitat is a valuable tool, but the revisions recognize that there are rare circumstances where habitat designation is not prudent. The revisions provide a non-exhaustive list of these. The revisions also require that occupied habitat be evaluated before non-occupied habitat when designations are developed.
The blanket rule under section 4(d) that automatically gave threatened species the same protections as endangered species unless otherwise specified is rescinded. Individually specific 4(d) rules are required for each future threatened species.
Concerns regarding the lack of transparency in making listing decisions and their economic impacts are addressed in the revised regulation preamble clarifying that the ESA does not prohibit agencies from collecting data determineing the impacts and making that information available, so long as doing so does not influence the listing determination.
You can download the revised regulations here:
Sedgwick County BoCC Bans Wind Farms and Tightens Requirements for Solar Projects
Thursday, August 22, 2019 — The Sedgwick County Board of County Commissioners voted to ban large-scale wind power projects and further restrict commercial solar projects in a vote taken on August 21st.
New regulations were proposed after nearly nine months of studies, according to planner Dave Yearout, when findings showed that large windmills can affect airport and flight operations within a five-mile radius of wind farms. A map with a ten mile radius drawn around every airport and private landing strip in the county left only four small areas that would not be affected by a nearby wind farm.
Additional solar farm restrictions were included because large installations create glare and glint that can compromise pilots’ ability to operate aircraft safely when sunlight is reflected from the ground into their aircraft.
The number of large aviation-related facilities in Sedgwick County, coupled with operational capabilities for McConnel Air Force Base make large scale wind farms incompatible with the county’s needs.
The new regulations will not affect small-scale solar installations on homes or businesses, nor will they affect privately-owned wind generation towers up to 45 feet tall.
The new regulations will be presented to the Wichita City Council for their approval in the near future.
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.