There were apologies all around, but that didn't alter in the least the fact that people concerned about the future of the lesser prairie chicken have been stiffed.

Indeed, they've been given short notice and poor choices on locations to talk about the question of if the bird deserves protection under the state's endangered species law. It already is waiting in the wings, so to speak, for elevation to that spot on the federal side.

The problem is this:

Public notice -- the real kind -- came late last week, only a few days before a series of meetings this week on the request by the Kansas Ornithological Society and several Audubon groups to list the lesser prairie chicken as an endangered species.

People deserve more notice than that.

Beginning Tuesday, meetings were held in Garden City, Meade and Wichita. A final meeting is set for Monday in Topeka.

Neither Wichita nor Topeka have any lesser prairie chickens, unless they're stuffed and sitting on a mantle or part of either city's respective zoo collection.

The reality of it is there's a considerable amount of lesser prairie chicken territory beyond Garden City and Meade, both generally in the same area.

So, one of the four meetings -- or perhaps a fifth -- could have been located elsewhere. Ness County comes to mind, considering the massive amount of farm ground was enrolled in the popular Conservation Reserve Program to provide habitat for the birds.

Or it could have been to the west. Almost anywhere else other than virtually stacking the meetings on top of each other.

To be sure, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks threatened and endangered species coordinator Ed Miller said the law requires only three meetings. One extra meeting is being conducted because of the Audubon interest.

KDWP has had the dates set for months now, actually publishing notice Feb. 18 in the Kansas Register, the official state newspaper. To be legal, it has to be published in the Kansas Register.

But let's be real. How many people read the Kansas Register or even know of its existence? It's a dry, drab -- lacking any photos -- publication that is about as boring as, well, imagine your own worst scenario.

The Kansas Register, it seems, is the place for Topeka bureaucrats to bury information so only the Topeka bureaucrats know about it.

Not to mention, The Hays Daily News, as far back as October, has asked more than once to be notified as soon as meetings were scheduled. That way, we could pass the word on to our readers.

That wasn't done.

What concerns me most, however, is if the meetings aren't well attended, will KDWP use that as a signal that protection isn't needed?

Attendance at Meade, according to a birding listserv, only numbered three; there were 11 at Garden City.

Nothing to be proud of, one birder observed.

Several birders on the ornithological mailing list complained about the lack of notice. One writer also made mention of a 109-page document prepared by a Fort Hays State University professor, a new discovery Thursday.

So where's the openness, the sunshine on this project?

To be sure, one writer said, the committee, of which he is a member, takes its charge seriously. There's reason to doubt him on that issue.

But appearances can destroy all the goodwill and good effort poured into a project. This one is nearly there.

Remember, offering endangered species status to the lesser prairie chicken would effectively halt hunting of the bird. Given KDWP's position as primarily an agency for hunters, anglers and campers, it's a troubling sign that they might not want to jeopardize a quarry.

Let's hope I'm wrong. Let's hope science prevails.