By MIKE CORN
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service once again is asking for public comments on its proposal to list the lesser prairie chicken as threatened.
It's the fifth, and shortest, public comment period in the proposal to list the bird as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Comments have to be filed by Feb. 12.
Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., is taking credit for the wildlife agency's move.
"On Jan. 8, I requested that the USFWS allow additional time for Kansans to submit comments about the potential listing of the LPC as a threatened or endangered species," Huelskamp said in a statement. "I am pleased at the news that they have agreed to my request and are again allowing comments. I have heard from concerned farmers, ranchers, landowners, energy companies and leaseholders about the devastating impact a listing would have on them. With this announcement, Kansans have the opportunity for another 14 days to share their concerns with these federal bureaucrats."
There really isn't anything new in the proposal, published in Wednesday's Federal Register, although it sought to clarify which version of a five-state conservation plan it has endorsed.
Even that was a bit awkward, but it clears the air on its endorsement of an October version of the plan, put together by wildlife agencies in the five states the lesser prairie chicken inhabits. Those state are Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.
Kansas has the greatest share of the estimated 17,000 birds in the five-state area. The 2012 spring estimate put the total at 34,440 birds.
The agency also said it plans to finalize a "revised proposed 4(d) special rule concurrent with the final listing rule, if the results of our final listing determination conclude that threatened species status is appropriate and if we determine that this revised proposed 4(d) special rule is appropriate following public comment."
That revised 4(d) rule, announced in December, lays out a series of provisions designed to offer protection to farmers in the course of routine agricultural production.
But it went ahead and listed a variety of methods that aren't considered routine, including harvesting a field from the inside out or the use of flushing bars, apparently little more than a bar with chains hanging down.
FWS didn't broach the subject of yet another public hearing, something that was suggested in the fourth comment period by a gaggle of Kansas legislators who have voiced opposition to the listing.
The reopening of the comment period also comes just days after Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who also serves as a constitutional law attorney, testified on a bill declaring the state's "sovereignty and to resist the federal government's unconstitutional assertion of power."