Daily Archives: July 18, 2012

Drought Emergency Relief Requested

State Emergency Board (“SEB”) Chairman Adrian J. Polansky announced he is recommending that Governor Sam Brownback request USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack declare 37 additional Kansas counties as disaster areas. The added counties are Atchison, Brown, Chase, Cherokee, Clay, Cloud, Dickinson, Doniphan, Douglas, Ellis, Ellsworth, Franklin, Geary, Jackson, Jefferson, Jewell, Johnson, Leavenworth, Lincoln, Marion, Miami, Mitchell, Morris, Nemaha, Osage, Osborne, Ottawa, Pottawatomie, Republic, Riley, Rush, Russell, Saline, Shawnee, Smith, Wabaunsee and Wyandotte. The SEB reviewed and verified loss assessment reports that document at least a 30% loss of production of one or more crops in these counties. The losses are due to drought, extreme heat, high winds and wildfire plaguing a large part of Kansas again this year.

The loss assessment reports are compiled by each County Emergency Board (“CEB”) and are the first step in the declaration process for counties that are not included in the Drought Monitor Index as D2 (severe drought) for at least 8 weeks during the growing season or reaching a D3 (extreme drought) level at any time during the growing season. The CEB’s are chaired by the County Executive Director of FSA and include local KSU extension, NRCS, Rural Development and Emergency management personnel.

If Governor Brownback recommends—and USDA Secretary Vilsack makes—the disaster designation for these 37 counties, qualifying producers in the counties would be eligible for USDA-FSA emergency loans.

            Polansky stated “Unfortunately for Kansas producers, the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (“SURE”) does not cover 2012 crops and is not extended by the farm bill passed by the U.S. Senate and the House Agriculture Committee”.

            Livestock disaster programs are included in the Farm Bill language at this point–one of the reasons Congress needs to move the process forward sooner rather than later.

Nebraska Bighorn Herd Grows

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, with the help from the U. S. Department of Agriculture, recently bolstered its bighorn restoration project begun in 1981 by reintroducing 40 more animals, captured in February in Alberta, Canada, into the pine Ridge region. Officials hope they will strengthen the genetics of the existing herd. Historically, bighorn sheep were found throughout Nebraska but were extirpated there in the early 20th century.

Kansas Court Supports Black-footed Ferrets

Audubon of Kansas sent this important E-Newsletter today.

Kansas Court of Appeals Supports Position of Landowners Hosting Reintroduction of Black-footed Ferrets

Audubon of Kansas is applauding the decision of a Kansas Court of Appeals panel that affirmed an earlier decision by Senior Judge Jack Lively, which permanently enjoined the Board of County Commissioners of Logan County from eradicating prairie dogs on approximately 10,000 acres of ranchland owned by Larry and Bette Haverfield, Gordon Barnhardt and Maxine Blank.


Prairie dog colonies are scattered over several thousand acres of rangeland on these jointly managed ranches, making it the largest and possibly the most ecologically important Black-tailed Prairie Dog complex in the state of Kansas.  It serves as a principle focus for the reintroduction of federally endangered Black-footed Ferrets in Kansas.  This small predator relies almost exclusively on prairie dogs for prey and lives in the burrows they create. 


After being regarded as extinct in the state for fifty years, fourteen captive-raised ferrets were released on the Haverfield/Barnhardt complex in December 2007.  Several additional releases followed, and the ferrets have been reproducing in the wild on the property and another nearby reintroduction site.


In addition, prairie dog colonies provide prey and habitat for several other imperiled species, including Ferruginous Hawks, Golden Eagles, 
Burrowing Owls and Swift Foxes.


As argued by attorney Randall Rathbun on behalf of the landowners–who wanted to retain prairie dogs, the ferrets and other wildlife on their land-the Endangered Species Act (ESA) preempts the county from unilateral eradication of prairie dogs within the complex.  Eradication as “authorized” under K.S.A. 80-1202 would destroy the food supply and habitat of the Black-footed Ferret, constituting an unlawful taking under the ESA.


In summary, the Court of Appeals declared that the ESA preempts K.S.A. 80-1202 because eradication may constitute an unlawful taking within the meaning of the act. The district court was correct that it did not have jurisdiction to determine the issues the County has presented that clearly fall under federal jurisdiction.  “The County’s contention lacks legal merit because it is an attempt to do an end run around the ESA and the protection afforded the black-footed ferret.”


The Logan County Commission began a campaign to force landowners throughout the county to eradicate prairie dogs in the summer of 2005.  During the past seven years the commission has hired and sent extermination contractors and a county employee to the Haverfield ranch complex with mandates that the land be poisoned with toxicants including Rozol Prairie Dog Bait and Phostoxin, a dangerous gas that kill everything in treated burrows.  The Logan County Commission and the Kansas Farm Bureau have spearheaded litigation to force landowners to comply with eradication orders. The landowners have defended their interests in various court proceedings.


The recent Kansas Court of Appeals decision is likely to bring the string of litigation on this ranch complex to a close.  However, the property rights of other landowners who seek to provide refuge for the diverse species that depend on prairie dog colonies for existence may encounter similar assaults on their stewardship efforts.


Audubon of Kansas and other wildlife conservation organizations have argued in the Kansas Legislature that the eradication statutes (K.S.A. 80-1202) used by counties to force landowners to poison prairie dogs, enacted more than a century ago, is antiquated and should be repealed.  When eradication mandates are imposed, they drastically infringe on private property rights and they promote extinction of wildlife when conservation and stewardship should be the state’s role.


A detailed article on the controversy and issues relating to the efforts of these landowners to protect prairie dog colonies and host the reintroduction of Black-footed Ferrets was published in Audubon of Kansas’ PRAIRIE WINGS magazine.  Entitled “CONSERVATION of Prairie Dogs and Reintroduction of Black-footed Ferrets REQUIRES COURAGE”, the article can be viewed online at http://www.prairiewingsmagazine.org, pages 14-18.


Larry and Bette Haverfield, Gordon and Martha Barnhardt, and Maxine Blank are regarded by many wildlife enthusiasts throughout the country as wildlife conservation heroes.

Missouri River Corridor Cover Crop Funds

Missouri River Corridor Cover Crop Initiative Funds Available for 4 Northeast Kansas Counties

Salina, Kansas, July 12, 2012—Eric B. Banks, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist in Kansas, announced that applications are being accepted to support cover crops planted on lands damaged by the 2011 flooding along the Missouri River to assist producers in controlling erosion and building organic matter. Eligible areas are land affected by the Missouri River flooding in Atchison, Doniphan, Leavenworth, and Wyandotte Counties. Producers may apply for the funds through July 27, 2012, and funds must be obligated by August 10, 2012.

Kansas received $125,000 for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Missouri River Corridor Cover Crop Initiative for cover crops and associated practices to address the damaged areas.

The EQIP helps address the unique circumstances and concerns of socially disadvantaged, limited resource, and beginning farmers and ranchers who have natural resource concerns that need to be addressed on their land. Qualifying Kansas producers compete separately and receive higher payment rates.

For more information visit the Kansas NRCS Web site www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov/programs or your local U.S. Department of Agriculture Service Center. To find a service center near you, check in your telephone book under “United States Government” or on the Internet at offices.usda.gov. Follow us on Twitter @NRCS_Kansas. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.