Ellis joins growing group opposed to putting bird on endangered species list



Ellis County has joined a growing legion of western Kansas counties rising up in opposition to the designation of the lesser prairie chicken as threatened.

The Kansas Natural Resource Coalition, now with 30 member counties, also is insisting the U.S. Fish and Game Commission sit down with them for what's known as a "coordination" meeting.

The group is planning a hearing in early November in Garden City to take public comments on the federal wildlife agency's proposal to add the bird to the federal endangered species list.

Representatives of the group were in Washington last week to meet with Kansas congressional members and Dan Ashe, FWS director.

KNRC President Ken Klemm, a Sherman County commissioner, wasn't able to meet with the agency director, KNRC vice president Mahlon Tuttle said, but he was able to meet with a third-line supervisor.

"They felt like it was a success," Tuttle said of the meeting.

Tuttle, however, voiced concerns it appeared neither FWS nor Sen. Pat Robert's office had looked over a pair of documents laying out the counties' plans for both the coordination meeting and the prairie chicken plan.

Ellis County's decision to sign a pair of resolutions -- one for each of the two documents -- came after commissioners had the chance to look over electronic copies of the documents.

Klemm declined a request to release electronic copies of the reports, even though they've been distributed to commissioners in at least three counties.

A week ago, Ellis County also signed a resolution laying out its decision to join the county group, as well as kick in the $2,687 to help cover the cost of the prairie chicken plan, a plan drawn up by Jim Carlson, an engineer with Stillwater Technical Solutions, based in Garden City.

Ellis County, however, wouldn't commit to paying more, although it agreed to consider additional costs.

Tuttle since has approached the Rooks County Commission to enlist its support. The prairie chicken's range extends into the southeast corner of the county.

The next step in the process comes when KNRC conducts its two-day public hearing in November.

That's when residents will have the chance to ask questions and make comments, Tuttle said. The group also hopes to have a coordination meeting with the federal wildlife agency.