Kansas Wildlife Federation

Wednesday, March 30 2005

Poaching bill is in trouble….

Filed under: — Dan @ 05:03pm

Leave it to the Kansas Legislature to endanger a bill that passed both chambers unanimously.

HB 2253 is the bill that would escalate penalties for repeat violators of wildlife crimes. It passed the House 122-0 and the Senate 39-0.

The Senate added a number of amendments, all of the good ones that make the bill more functional. Since the versions differed, the House requested a conference committee.

At today’s conference committee, the House side informed the Senate that the House wanted to add HB 2115, the bowhunter unit revocation, to 2253.

2115 never made it out of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, so the Senators on the Conference Committee feel pretty blind-sided and bitter about having this bill held over their heads. The idea seems to be to get a controversial measure passed by adding it to a popular one.

The worst part about this is that 2115 probably won’t matter anyway, as the KDWP will have a completely new deer management plan in the next 12 months.

If no one can compromise on this, we may lose the whole bill for something that wouldn’t matter in another 365 days.

Here’s what’s needed right now - the leaders of the Conference Committee need to hear from you right now. Tell them you don’t want to lose a bill that the state needs for a bill that will be obsolete within a year. Urge them to come an agreement that will benefit all of the state. Their contact info is as follows:

Senator Carolyn McGinn
Chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee
mcginn@senate.state.ks.us
785-296-7377

Representative Don Myers
Chair of the House Wildlife, Tourism & Parks Committee
myers@house.state.ks.us
785 296-7695

As always, please be respectful and courteous when dealing with legislators. They want to do the right thing. This is your chance to tell them what that is.

Show us the data….

Filed under: — Dan @ 03:58pm

You might have seen the movie “Jerry Maguire” where the sports agent brings negotiations to a halt by shouting “Show me the money!”

If you changed that to “Show us the data!” that would be our reaction to a new proposal by the Department of Wildlife & Parks to expand the hunting seasons for prairie-chicken and quail.

Maybe there is some scientific support to justify a longer hunting season. If that’s true, the KDWP should be trumpeting itself in biological and land-management publications across the world, as prairie-chicken and quail populations have been in decline across their ranges in North AMerica.

This idea of extending the seasons on these birds has come up before. Dr. Robert Robel, a wildlife biologist with decades of experience in Kansas, helped kill that proposal by putting forward evidence to the Wildlife & Parks Commission that some of the quail hunting in Kansas is producing “additive mortality.”

This isn’t to say that Dr. Robel is anti-hunting - he’s also a life member of KWF and a life-long hunter himself. But to the best of our knowledge, we certainly don’t have room to talk about expanding quail and prairie-chicken seasons. If the birds really are on the rebound, what’s responsible to the resource is to talk about how we can keep that rolling, instead of expanding a hunting season too soon.

Thursday, March 24 2005

EPA ignored its own science in drafting mercury rules

Filed under: — Dan @ 01:37pm

MSNBC carries this Washington Post story detailing how the EPA ignored its own data when drafting its mercury emissions rules.

The EPA’s new rules put in place a market-approach, in which mercury emissions are capped and emission permits for mercury are traded. In a meeting with Wildlife Federation affiliates, EPA leadership insisted that this was a more cost-effective strategy than simply clamping down on mercury emissions entirely, and that part of the reason was that there were more costly and serious threats from coal-fired plants than just mercury.

That insistence seems contradicted by this quote from the story:

What they did not reveal is that a Harvard University study paid for by the EPA, co-authored by an EPA scientist and peer-reviewed by two other EPA scientists had reached the opposite conclusion.

That analysis estimated health benefits 100 times as great as the EPA did, but top agency officials ordered the finding stripped from public documents, said a staff member who helped develop the rule. Acknowledging the Harvard study would have forced the agency to consider more stringent controls, said environmentalists and the study’s author.

This is nothing new. At both the state and federal level, good science is routinely beaten out by economic or political considerations. That’s why groups like Kansas Wildlife Federation are such a necessity - there must be an independent, non-governmental watchdog for our natural resources.

Tuesday, March 22 2005

Landowner goes to bat for prairie-chickens

Filed under: — Dan @ 01:42pm

A lobbyist for the Sierra Club recently derided the opposition to commercial wind power, saying “Prairie-chickens have declined by 80%. Why are people speaking up for them now?”

Leaving the logic of the statement aside - apparently if a species goes into decline, it’s okay to press the accelerator - it’s also not true that the decline of one of the emblems of Kansas has gone unnoticed or uncared for.

As one example, take this Wichita Eagle article about Cowley County rancher Bob Massey.

Bob has been working to maintain prairie-chicken populations - and has shared his love of the outdoors with visitors - for decades.

Prairie-chickens are in decline for a number of reasons, but people like Bob Massey have been doing their best for years to stem the tide.

Where the park bill goes from here

Filed under: — Dan @ 01:04pm

KWF supports SB 87, which would replace park entrance fees with a $4 car registration fee. This would give Kansans more affordable entry into the outdoors, fix our state parks, and do so very affordably.

Predictably there is opposition to the bill, mostly from legislators and lobbyists who don’t like the Department of Wildlife & Parks, such as the Kansas Farm Bureau. It doesn’t look like we’ll get much play on the bill this year, as opponents have asked the Attorney General’s office for a review of the bill’s consitutionality.

The Pratt Tribune has this excellent article summarizing what the bill would do and where it is right now.

Thursday, March 17 2005

URGENT ACTION NEEDED: Please call your State Senator on HB 2226

Filed under: — Dan @ 07:12pm

Thanks to the efforts of two Representatives with an antipathy to
the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks, the House has on General Orders HB 2226, which is one of the more serious threats to the public and to wildlife to come out of this legislative session.

When a bill is placed on General Orders, only a straight up or down vote is allowed, and a bill placed on General Orders almost always passes. We anticipate the bill will go to the Senate.

HB 2226 is designed to keep the state of Kansas from buying any land for wildlife areas or state parks. Any acquisition of property of 480 acres or more would have to be subjected to approval from the full legislature - not just the monetary allocation, but the act of accepting the land itself.

This means that a willing seller could not sell his land to the state without gathering full legislative approval, and it also means that someone could not donate land or leave land to the state without legislative approval. As always, the Representatives who talk the most about property rights are the ones most willing to legislate against them.

As people lose their hunting grounds, public wildlife areas are going to become increasingly important - both as places for public access and as dedicated wildlife habitat. If this bill passes, it will be a major setback for the ability of the average Kansan to enjoy the outdoors.

You can see the full text of HB 2226 at the Kansas Legislature website. Note that you’ll need Acrobat Reader to see the text.

The most urgent need at this point is for communication from you to your state Senator, asking them to work against the passage of HB 2226.

As always, if you need information about how to contact your Senator or additional talking points, please don’t hesitate to contact the KWF office at 785-232-3238.

Tuesday, March 15 2005

It’s getting to be walleye time

Filed under: — Dan @ 04:53pm

As the weather turns to Spring (and not a moment too soon!) Michael Pearce over at the Wichita Eagle has two good articles in the Sunday paper on walleye fishing.

One is on the quality walleye fishing that’s close to Wichita. There are certainly some good fisheries mentioned in the article, but if you’re not in the south-central area, you may also want to think about Milford.

The other is a great article on the start of walleye fishing weather and includes some good tips on where to cast and what kinds of water conditions to watch for.

You might still need a parka this week, but it won’t be ice-fishing!

Friday, March 11 2005

More on mercury

Filed under: — Dan @ 12:37pm

The EPA will announce new rules next week governing mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The good news is that mercury emissions from coal burning will finally come under some kind of regulation. That can’t happen quickly enough, as evidence continues to mount up that the toxic metal presents a major new threat. This story from the Boston Globe, for example, details how mercury is being found in songbirds and other forest-dwelling species. Previously, mercury was thought to only be a threat to fish and birds (and people) that ate the fish.

The bad news is that the new controls are less than what the law might actually require. The Clean Air Act would have required the best available controls, which currently filter about 90% of the mercury coming out of a powerplant. Under the new rules, the EPA will require a 70% reduction by 2018. Call me impatient, but I don’t see why we should have to wait 13 years.

What does this mean practically? Let’s say for the sake of argument that a power plant is currently emitting 100 pounds of mercury per year. Under the Clean Air Act as it’s been written and interpreted, that would drop to 10 pounds per year. Under the new rules, that same power plant might put 1,000 pounds more of mercury into the air by 2018. The worst part is that this is easily avoidable given current technology.

The Washington Post has more on the story. If you get a registration screen, use “register@kswildlife.org” as your email and “topeka” as your password.

Wednesday, March 9 2005

Are hunters criminals?

Filed under: — Dan @ 01:44pm

Depends on the day and what you’re doing, but many of our state’s hunters could be risking arrest every time they put a gun in the car.

There is no simple way to know that you’re carrying your firearm inside a car legally in Kansas. Because every locality is free to set its own rules on firearms transportation, what’s perfectly legal in Miami County could get you arrested in Kansas City.

This has real consequences - the legal costs for dealing with such an arrest can easily exceed $2,500, including attorney fees and court costs. What’s just as bad: your conviction is listed in the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database as a “weapons violation”.

KWF is working with the National Rifle Association, Representative Candy Ruff, and other organizations on behalf of HB 2439, which would keep cities and counties from passing stricter vehicle transportation requirements than the state. That way, the state’s 290,000+ hunters can get in the car and have peace of mind that they’re doing the right thing in the right way.

If you want to help get 2439 passed, call Representative John Edmonds, the Chair of the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs. His number is 785 296-7681, or you can email him at edmonds@house.state.ks.us. Let him know you’d like to see 2439 get out of committee.

Grassland Reserve Program application deadline is near

Filed under: — Dan @ 01:24pm

If you have at least 40 contiguous acres of grasslands, and would like to get some help preserving it, it just might be worth your time to make an application to the USDA’s Grasslands Reserve Program. Kansas has a Fiscal Year 2005 allocation of $2.5 million for ranchers who want to participate in GRP. You’ll need to get moving - the FY 2005 application deadline is April 1, 2005.

A capsule description of GRP from the Natural Resources Conservation Service:

In its third year of existence, GRP is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance grasslands on their property through easements (permanent or 30-year) and rental agreements (10-year, 15-year, 20-year, or 30-year). In Kansas, approximately $1.8 million will be set aside for easements, which includes $250,000 that Congress designated for counties in the Flint Hills. Approximately $750,000 will be set aside for rental agreements. Priority will be given to easements and 20-year and 30-year rental agreements. The program emphasizes the preservation of native and natural grasslands and shrublands, support for grazing operations, plant and animal biodiversity, and the protection of grassland that is under multiple threats of conversion.

Grazing, haying, mowing, and harvesting for seed production are all allowable uses under the GRP program. For more information about the program, call 785-823-4571, or go to the Kansas website of the NRCS.

Friday, March 4 2005

Mercury round-up

Filed under: — Dan @ 01:09pm

A lot of breaking news on mercury today that deserves the attention of anyone who eats fish or cares about wildlife or unborn children. (I think that’s everyone.)

The Albuquerque Tribune carries this outstanding editorial calling for state action. New Mexico’s older coal-fired power plants are a signifcant source of mercury emissions and other pollution in the United States. Current New Mexico law prohibits the state from having stricter standards than the federal Clean Air Act; given that the Administration’s under-ambitious plans for mercury emissions, this editorial is calling on the state Legislature to step up.

In North Carolina, the state’s Attorney General is taking action against the EPA for allowing coal plants in other states to pollute North Carolina’s waterways. North Carolina also has stricter standards for mercury emissions than the federal government.

In Washington, the state legislature is looking at a bill that would tackle mercury from obsolete automobiles. In essence, the bill would require auto recyclers to take mercury out of cars before compacting them. Dismantled cars will be a mercury emissions source for at least another 10 years, though certainly not on the scale of coal-fired power plants.

The New Jersey legislature is also looking at a similar bill. New Jersey may be reacting to recent news that there’s a lot more mercury in the state’s fish than the US EPA anticipated.

Finally one of the objections from the power generation industry to new regulations on emissions is that scrubbing technology is too expensive. ADA-ES, an environmental technology company, announced yesterday that its new product reduces mercury emissions by 90%, even on Wyoming coal, which has been particularly problematic for scrubbing technology. This is good news for Kansas, which burns a good deal of Wyoming coal.

Tuesday, March 1 2005

Mercury exposure lowers IQ, costs US economy billions

Filed under: — Dan @ 03:09pm

Fox News carries this report from the Mount Sinai Center for Children’s Health and the Environment. The report details how each year, hundreds of thousands of babies are born with lower IQs as a result of mercury exposure while in the womb.

The Kansas Wildlife Federation is part of a national coalition of organizations that is pushing the Bush administration to work for more aggressive reduction of mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants. The administration has essentially proposed a 30% reduction, but much higher reductions are possible given current technology. Because of mercury’s effect on unborn children, KWF is particularly making an effort to involve faith-based organizations that haven’t necessarily worked on environmental issues before. So far that’s included the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, the Charismatic Episcopal Church, and Texas Democrats for Life.

The issue is a particular concern for Kansas, as we see more fish consumption warnings go up across the state. While Kansas is only 32nd in population, we are 19th in mercury emissions. Yet the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s web page manages not to mention emissions, instead treating it as a household hazard.

To find out how you can become involved in protecting children from mercury exposure, call us here at 785-232-3238, or email to info@kswildlife.org.

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