By MIKE CORN
The state's threatened and endangered species task force has turned thumbs down on a request to add the lesser prairie chicken to the state's list of endangered species.
The group has forwarded its recommendation to Mike Hayden, secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and is working on a written statement outlining its decision, according to Ed Miller, the state's T&E coordinator.
The request to add the lesser prairie chicken to the state's endangered species list was made by the Kansas Ornithological Society and several Kansas Audubon chapters. The request was based on the historically declining status of the bird, which is one step away from being listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
That designation could come in the next year.
The notion of a state designation will go before the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission at its Aug. 12 meeting in Mankato.
At that time, Miller said, he will present the committee's findings -- in the form of its still unwritten statement -- to the commission. Hayden would then offer his recommendation.
Although Hayden could take action on his own, it's expected that the decision ultimately might be made by commissioners.
"He already knows what our recommendation is going to be," Miller said.
He said there were several reasons why the T&E committee voted 7-to-2 against listing the lesser prairie chicken.
Foremost among them are the myriad of initiatives that are either in place or being put in place to help support the birds, he said.
Those efforts, Miller said, need to have a chance to play out.
The birds also have had generally increasing populations in recent years, specifically in the wake of the creation of the popular Conservation Reserve Program.
"We usually don't list a species where we have seen a population increase in the last 15 to 20 years," Miller said.
Historically, the population of the bird has been declining.
"We put a lot of effort in this," Miller said. "It is not black and white. There is still a lot of grey, but we don't think it was grey enough to consider them as threatened."