By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

The trial in the continuing fight over prairie dogs will have to wait for another day.

Senior Judge Jack Liveley, assigned to hear the case, has agreed to delay the trial until October.

It had been scheduled to start in slightly more than a week, but all that was tossed into the air when Lively refused to allow the Kansas Farm Bureau to intervene in the case.

It's also likely that a July 16 hearing on a motion for summary judgment -- negating the need for a trial -- will be pushed back.

In his ruling, Lively also narrowed the focus of the case to all but avoid the state's law on the county's authority to go in and poison the animals and then bill the landowner -- the heart of Logan County's claim.

In his decision, Lively said the "issue in this case is whether the federal government can protect an endangered species," such as the black-footed ferret.

Until that ruling, it had been thought that the case was more about the county's ability to poison prairie dogs, considered by many to be the bane of ranchers.

The lawsuit pits the Logan County Commission against Larry and Bette Haverfield and Gordon Barnhardt, owners of an almost 10,000 acre ranch where the highly endangered black-footed ferrets have been reintroduced.

The Haverfields and Barnhardt have been hoping to thwart efforts by the county to poison the land, while the county hopes to expand its poisoning beyond the 90-foot barrier that was allowed by a Topeka judge more than a year ago.

Following Lively's ruling, Wichita attorney Randy Rathbun, representing Haverfield and Barnhardt, filed a motion for summary judgment closely tailored to the ruling.

Logan County's attorney, Jim McVay, Great Bend, quickly sought a continuance, saying that he will "not be able to prepare a response to the plaintiff's motion and prepare for trial at the same time."

Under rules in the case, McVay would have had to respond to the motion within 21 days, one day before the start of the trial.

"The plaintiffs' contentions are straightforward," Rathbun wrote in a brief supporting his motion for summary judgment. He went on to say that state laws must "give way" to the Endangered Species Act.

"Plaintiffs' argument is not complex or overly technical," he wrote, noting that they are not contending that state law governing prairie dog control is "unconstitutional or unenforceable anywhere else in the state. Their argument is simply that the statutte is not enforceable on the complex because of the presence of an endangered species -- in fact, the most endangered mammal in the United States."