Monthly Archives: March 2014

Third Range-wide Lesser Prairie-chicken Aerial Survey being Conducted

Survey monitors lesser prairie-chicken population across five states
This month, wildlife experts are starting the third annual helicopter survey to assess lesser prairie-chicken populations across the bird’s range, according to the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA). The historic first-ever, large-scale helicopter survey of lesser prairie-chicken breeding areas, or leks, across the species’ five-state range occurred March-May 2012. The survey area encompassed more than 300,000 square miles and detected several previously unknown leks, despite severe drought conditions. Survey teams also detected leks in Kansas beyond what was thought to be the northern extent of the bird’s historic range.
The 2013 range-wide survey revealed population estimates of 17,616, down from the 34,440 birds estimated the first year in 2012. The population decrease was predicted by biologists because of the persistent drought that has plagued the region in recent years.
Lesser prairie-chicken populations have historically fluctuated due to weather and habitat conditions. In fact, populations were so low during the droughts in the 1930s and 1950s, biologists feared the species was almost extinct. However, when the rains returned, the populations rebounded.
Bird numbers have been largely increasing in Kansas for the last 15 years, while populations have declined in parts of the southern portion of the range. Some biologists believe this northward expansion may represent a shift in the population of the species caused by climatic conditions associated with changing precipitation patterns.
“Besides rain, what will really help are the on-the-ground conservation efforts we’re putting in place with the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan,” said Bill Van Pelt, WAFWA grassland coordinator.  Van Pelt noted how the five-state plan provides ways for industry to be supportive and landowners to enroll in voluntary conservation agreements.
The range-wide plan includes management goals and voluntary conservation programs and practices to be applied throughout the lesser prairie-chicken’s range.  The final plan was endorsed last October by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has been considering whether to list the species as threatened. An announcement on the final listing decision is expected by March 31.
Aerial surveys will continue through mid-May, extending from the southern plains of the Texas Panhandle and southeast New Mexico up to northern Kansas and Colorado. Surveys will be flown at 35-40 mph about 80 feet above ground. Pilots involved have extensive experience conducting aerial surveys and will make a special effort to avoid hazing livestock on pastures.
Anyone can learn more about the range-wide plan and options for landowners and industry on theWAFWA website.

Topeka Zoo’s First Sustainable Seafood Conservation Dinner

The Topeka Zoo has joined with Pachamama’s Restaurant in Lawrence to bring you an elegant night out, where we will dine on some sustainable seafood while briefly discussingsustainable seafood, our changing oceans and what landlocked Kansans can do to make a difference for plants and animals in our world’s oceans. Sustainable seafood purchasing lists and recipes will be available.
The event will be held on Saturday, April 12th in Pachamama’s beautiful Alton Ballroom. The reception begins at 6:30 and dinner is served at 7:00. If you have any questions, please contact Rachael Rost at 785-368-9137.

Kansan Recognized for Conservation Contributions

2014 Migratory Bird Joint Venture Conservation Champion Announced
The Playa Lakes Joint Venture is proud to announce that Joe Kramer, Director of Fisheries and Wildlife Division for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, is the recipient of the 2014 North American Migratory Bird Joint Venture Conservation Champion Award. This award is given to partners that have demonstrated a long-term commitment and dedication to the important work of the Joint Ventures.
“For his 34 years of contributions to the people and places so vital to the wildlife and wetlands we want to sustain, we are honored to present the Conservation Champion Award for an Individual to Joe Kramer,” says PLJV Coordinator Mike Carter. “Joe has been with us from the beginning, as a founding member of the management board, and is still just as involved today.”
Joe Kramer, Professional Conservation Champion
Raised in Great BendKansas, Joe Kramer developed a passion for waterfowl at Cheyenne Bottoms. He began his professional career upon completion of his Wildlife Biology degree from Kansas State University in 1976 and was soon employed as a wildlife area technician with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. In just 11 years, Joe rose to Chief of Wildlife and Fisheries Division, where he remains an important leader twenty-seven years later.
Joe recognized early the need for the Migratory Bird Joint Ventures. He also wholeheartedly worked to bring together and sustain the crucial partnerships needed to make Joint Ventures fully functioning conservation implementation vehicles that foster landscape-wide response to habitat needs for birds, especially those that need wetlands. He was a founding board member of the Playa Lakes Joint Venture and was at the first Management Board meeting in 1989, served as chairman from 1991 to 1993, and continues to be active on the board today. He was also a key player in bringing Playa Lakes Joint Venture into the non-profit world, which increased funding opportunities.
Joe has been an exemplary leader outside of Kansas throughout his career and is committed to advancing the science and management of wetlands and waterfowl. He has served on the Central Flyway Council since 1991 and was the Council’s representative to the North American Waterfowl Management Plan Committee for 10 of those years. Joe currently serves on the Kansas NRCS State Technical Committee and Board of Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams.
Joe has also been a leader in fostering wetland conservation partnerships. One shining example is McPherson Valley Wetlands, which now spans 4,500 acres in central Kansas and provides a critical anchor for waterfowl and other migratory birds traversing the continent between their breeding and wintering grounds. This acquisition and restoration project was built on partnerships taking almost 20 years to fully accomplish.

Kansas Integrated Roadside Vegetative Management

Photo by Ron Klataske, Audubon of Kansas
One of the most important initiatives that has gathered strong support from important wildlife and environmental organizations in Kansas is the need to recognize the tremendous ecological value of land along Kansas roadsides, specifically the narrow ribbon of land between the road and the nearest fence line. Thoughtless and excessive mowing costs taxpayers six million dollars anually and destroys vegetative habitat along thousands of miles of roads in Kansas that could be managed instead for wildlife, wildflowers (e.g. black-eyed Susans, coneflowers & butterfly milkweed), and native grasses (e.g. prairie dropseed, side-oats grama, little bluestem & big bluestem, Indian grass and switch grass). So much of Kansas is developed into important productive farmland and rangeland that the remaining ribbon of land along our roadways has become more important than ever because it represents collectively many square miles of land that could be filled with wildflowers and native grasses for pollinating insects and all types of wildlife. By not mowing less snow will drift onto the roads in winter and wildflowers can bloom and develop seed. A notable improvement is visible along K177 where extensive milkweed has been established to support pollinators like the monarch butterfly. Other flowers like violets could support the fritillary butterfly. Eliminating the broad use of herbicides along roadsides (except to eliminate invasive plants like Caucasian Bluestem, Canadian thistle & musk thistle) would also help establish and maintain important native vegetation. Native thistles, on the other hand, should be retained since their down is used in some bird nests. The KDOT should be recognized for the efforts it has made thus far in their seeding projects and revised mowing regimens. In recognition of these values, the Kansas Wildlife Federation, at its annual meeting in 2014, drafted and passed the following resolution to address this subject.

Resolution 2014-5
Whereas, Kansas has over 10,000
miles of state administered roads
; and
Whereas, there are approximately
80,500 miles of county administered roads in Kansas
; and
Whereas, Kansas has tens of thousands of miles of township and
local entity administered roads; and
Whereas, the Kansas Department of
Transportation has started to implement the use of Integrated Roadside Vegetative
Management (IRVM) practices to improve aesthetics, reduce maintenance costs and
enhance wildlife habitat on their roadsides
Whereas, Kansas counties, townships
and local entities could benefit by implementing IRVM practices on roadsides
under their administration.
that the Kansas Wildlife
Federation assembled during its annual meeting, February 22, 2014 in Salina,
Kansas, urges counties, townships and local entities to adopt Integrated
Roadside Vegetative Management (IRVM) practices on roadsides under their
administration; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that KWF urges adjacent landowners to county and
township roadsides to endorse implemented IRVM practices.

Addendum: For an outstanding summary of this topic by Audubon of Kansas visit

‘Focus on the Byway’ Photo Contest Begins

Website outlines rules
Anyone with a camera has a new opportunity to get the creative juices flowing and compete in a unique photography contest.
It is called “Focus on the Byway” and is open to amateurs and professionals of all ages. The year-long contest begins immediately and provides several chances to win cash prizes each quarter of that year.Photographers are asked to focus their lenses on the Kansas Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway.
            The Byway corridor includes Claflin, Ellinwood, Great Bend, Hoisington, HudsonSt. John and Stafford; the Byway winds through Barton, Reno and Stafford counties.
            “We encourage photographers to get involved in this new opportunity to draw attention to the beauty of the Byway and the quality of life that exists here in central Kansas,” said Cris Collier, director of the Great Bend Convention & Visitors’ Bureau (CVB). “This contest is unique in a number of ways that we think will attract those with a creative flair.”
            Collier outlined a few of the contest basics:
            ♦ Photographers will submit entries only online; there are a variety of categories for adults; the contest will be ongoing from now until April of next year; and there will be “great cash prizes.”
            ♦ “Photographers from ages 5 to 17 will not have to follow the category structure,” she noted. “They can shoot whatever they want.”
            Collier also noted that the contest is a first for a Kansas byway, and she knows of only one other in the United States. There are 150 national scenic byways nationwide.
            “This contest is a new way to promote the Byway region as a popular travel destination,” Collier said. “This will be a great way to showcase our great visitor experiences and opportunities.”
            All rules for the online submissions can be found at This is a page on the CVB website, which is
            Judges will select winners in each category every quarter beginning in April. Categories are outdoor adventure; events and attractions; people; scenic/wildlife; and slice-of-life portrait.
            Bob Gress of Wichita will be one of the five judges. The prize for first place in each category each quarter is $300. Second place will receive $150 and third, $50.
            First-place winners in each category for each quarter will be placed in the “Best of the Byway” contest at the end of the final quarter. The grand-prize winner will earn $1,000 in cash.
            “All entries should depict the beauty, spirit and/or character of the Byway,” Collier said. “We strongly encourage anyone interested to visit our website for all the rules and guidelines. It clearly outlines the photographers’ assignments.”
            The Byway is sponsoring the contest; the Great Bend CVB is its marketing arm.
            The Byway connects two of the world’s most ecologically important wetlands – Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.
            “This 77-mile route offers these wonderful wetlands, as well as stone bridges, underground tunnels, museums, local artwork, birds of prey and grasslands,” Collier said. “It is a photographer’s paradise.”

The War on Kansas Wildlife WE NEED YOUR IMMEDIATE HELP!!

There seems to be a concerted effort in the 2014 session of
the Kansas Legislature to dismantle wildlife conservation in Kansas. One bill
will repeal the Kansas Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1975.
Another bill will eliminate permanent conservation easements in Kansas. And yet
another bill prohibits U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and all federal
employees’ involvement in conservation of prairie-chickens and nonmigratory
wildlife in Kansas. It’s little wonder that we get the feeling there is a War
on Kansas Wildlife. We need the immediate assistance of all KWF members to
fight these onerous bills.
However, there are a couple of bills that deserve our
support. Let’s look at the pending bills one by one.
H.B. 2118 was
passed by the House in 2013 and that eliminated
environmental reviews on preservation of historic properties. Senator Larry
Powell, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, co-opted H.B.
2118 by gutting the original language and inserting the complete repeal of the
Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1975. This was done in a
committee meeting that was not scheduled ahead of time and thus no public
debate or testimony. The substitute bill was voted out of committee on the same
day it was created and sent to the full Senate.
Now known as the Senate Substitute for H.B. 2118, it may be
debated by the entire Senate this next week. If it
passes the full Senate, the Speaker of the House, Ray Merrick, will have to
decide if this bill has been ‘materially altered’ which is against House and
Senate rules. This decision is completely up to the Speaker and it will take 70
votes to reverse his decision.
We need everyone to contact their
state Senator and ask that they not vote for
Senate Substitute for H.B.
2118.  The bill has to be stopped, ideally by Senate President Sen.
Susan Wagle
and Ranking Majority Leader Sen.
Terry Bruce
, who can keep it from being voted on.
Let your senator and the Senate leadership know that a
survey of Kansans was conducted by Responsive Management regarding
Kansas Residents’ Opinions on Threatened and Endangered Wildlife and Actions to
Protect Wildlife
. They found 73% agreed with the statement, “Wildlife that is
threatened and endangered in Kansas yet abundant in other states should still
be protected in Kansas.”
They also found the most support is for having
an official state list of threatened and endangered wildlife in Kansas (90%
strongly or moderately support) and for the state imposing stiff fines on those
who harm endangered wildlife or their habitats (88% strongly or moderately
Tell your Senator to vote NO on Senate Substitute for H.B. 2118.
Here is a site for looking up your senator and
S.B. 323 is a
bill that originated in the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. It will
eliminate permanent conservation easements designed to protect prairies,
wetlands, agricultural land, etc. in Kansas. Conservation
easements will be limited to the landowner’s discretion, or at the longest,
his/her lifetime.
If S.B. 232 is enacted, it will end the use of
conservation easements to protect Flint Hills (and other) prairie lands by the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the
Kansas Rangeland Trust, the Kansas Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy and
others. Efforts by Ducks Unlimited to preserve our valuable wetlands via the
Wetland Reserve Program will essentially be shut down in Kansas. Likewise,
Department of Defense funding for conservation easements in the “buffer
area” around Fort Riley would be halted.
If SB 323 becomes law, Kansas will
be one of only two states to limit conservation easements. Tell your Senator to
vote NO on SB 323.
SB 276. This bill
originated in the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs, at the request
of Secretary of State Kobach. This bill is an
anti-USFWS involvement in
conservation of prairie-chickens and nonmigratory wildlife in Kansas. As
written it would preclude any federal employee to implement federal programs
that benefit resident wildlife. It is written broadly enough to keep the Farm
Service Agency from issuing subsidy payments to landowners as part of Farm Bill
programs, like the Conservation Reserve Program, Grasslands Reserve Program or
even the commodities programs.
SB 276 passed the Senate a while back and a hearing was held
in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee but it has not been
debated or voted on in that panel. Please contact your state representative and
have him/her vote against SB 276 if it comes up for a vote. This is especially
true if your representative sits on the House Committee
on Agriculture and Natural Resources
. Tell them to vote NO on SB 276.
The two bills that deserve our support deal with land
acquisition by the Kansas Department
of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. Kansas has too little public land available for
hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation access (KDWPT owns 0.27% of Kansas).
Kansas currently ranks 49th among the states, behind only Rhode
Island, in percentage of the state available for public outdoor recreation.
Both tracts are adjacent to land currently owned or leased by
KDWPT and will be open to hunting and other outdoor recreation activities
important to KWF members.
SB 366 would authorize the KDWPT to purchase a parcel of land containing 397 acres in Cherokee County. It
will be purchased using Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) settlement
funds which are used to mitigate damages to the environment and natural
resources in the Tri-State Mining District.
SB 370 would authorize the KDWPT to purchase a parcel of land containing 484 acres in Pottawatomie
adjacent to the Tuttle Creek Wildlife Area. Acquisition
of this land will improve public access to a 3.5-mile portion of that public
hunting area that is currently inaccessible to the public, expanding hunting,
wildlife viewing and hiking opportunities in the northern Flint Hills region.
Governor Brownback has identified the need for additional trails in the Flint
Hills as a part of his tourism plan.
Both SB 366 and SB 370 passed the
Senate and sit in the House Committee
on Appropriations
. Please contact Chairman Rep.
Marc Rhoades
and ask that the committee work and pass the two bills out of
committee. If your representative sits on the House Committee on Appropriations
let them know you support both SB 366 and SB 370. Regardless let your
representative know to vote YES on SB 366 and SB 370.

Please contact your state
representative and senator as soon as possible. Votes on these important bills
could happen at any time. Your support is critically important. Thank you in
advance for everything you can do.

Repeal of Kansas Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act measure introduced and reported out of Senate Committee this morning without notice or hearing

Message from Audubon of Kansas Regarding Attempts to Repeal
the Kansas Nongame & Endangered Species Conservation Act.

We’ve never sent out a more urgent Legislative Alert! This morning, without warning, Senator Larry Powell, Chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, attached an amendment to an unrelated bill that will (if passed) repeal the 1975 Kansas Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act. He was assisted in this effort by Senator Tom Arpke of Salina and Senator Caryn Tyson of Overland Park.

Timely emails and calls to Kansas state senators is likely the only thing that will halt this stealth attack on state designated nongame, threatened and endangered species conservation in Kansas. Most importantly, folks can contact Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita to ask that she hold off any action on this measure, which was not introduced as a bill, had no hearing, and will be a train wreck for conservation and KDWPT in Kansas. Her office phone is 785-296-2419 and her email address is [email protected]

The other key senator who can stall this runaway train and prevent the train wreck is Senator Terry Bruce, Senate Majority Leader, from Hutchinson. He controls the agenda for senate floor action. His office phone is 785-296-2497 and his email address [email protected]

Contact information for other state senators can be found

The measure to repeal the Kansas Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act was reportedly attached as an amendment to House Bill 2118. It is unrelated, designed to eliminate regulation of property surrounding historic sites. See an outline on that bill below.

One can read more about the Kansas Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act at:

Kansas Makes Bird Conservation a Felony

Dear Audubon Advocate,
The Kansas State Senate has passed a bill that takes aim at the Lesser Prairie-Chicken! It would make it a state felony for any U.S. Fish and Wildlife employee to engage in conservation work for this beleaguered bird.
Now this ill-conceived bill moves to the Kansas House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, and perhaps ultimately to the floor for a vote. We must stop it now!
Please send an email to your Kansas House legislator. Ask him/her to oppose SB 276, a bill that would make criminals out of U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees doing their job to conserve the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. Make sure your House legislator knows you support the conservation of birds and wildlife in Kansas!
The Lesser Prairie-Chicken is now only found in restricted areas of five states in the southern Great Plains. The Lesser Prairie-Chicken has experienced dramatic declines since the 1800s, as rangelands have been converted to agriculture, overgrazed, and affected by drought. Now more than ever the Lesser Prairie-Chicken needs strong conservation measures to ensure its survival.
Urge your Kansas Representative to vote “NO” on SB 276 and let the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service do its job to conserve this iconic American Plains bird.
Peg Olsen
Vice President, Central Flyway
National Audubon Society

AFWA Announces National Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Fish and Wildlife Resources

AFWA’s bipartisan Blue Ribbon Panel will produce recommendations on how the nation can fund natural resource conservation

The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) announced that Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops founder, and Dave Freudenthal, former Wyoming governor, will co-chair AFWA’s new, national Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Fish and Wildlife Resources to advance recommendations for funding a 21st century model of conservation.
Under the co-chairs’ leadership, the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Panel will convene 20 invited visionaries representing the outdoor recreation retail and manufacturing sector, the energy industry, conservation organizations and sportsmen’s groups to recommend funding solutions and Congressional policy options for delivering sustained conservation funding to states and their partners that maintain a balance between natural resource diversity and natural resource-based enterprise.
“I strongly believe that the future of our industry, the outdoor sports that we serve, and the outdoor sports we personally enjoy, is absolutely more dependent upon how we manage our natural resources than anything else,” said Johnny Morris. “Industries, agencies, key conservation organizations and individuals can work together and assure a very bright future for America’s full diversity of fish, wildlife, and their habitats.
The Blue Ribbon Panel is the first effort to bring business, energy, conservation and environmental interests to the table to focus on funding a 21st century model of conservation to sustain the full array of fish and wildlife species for our country.”
Over the past several years, federal funding for the conservation of imperiled fish and wildlife species has declined by one-third, while petitions for federal endangered species listing has skyrocketed by 1,000 percent. According to the Government Accountability Office, once listed, the average cost to U.S. taxpayers for the recovery of a single species can exceed $125 million.
Thousands of additional species could be listed in the coming years leading to more expensive recovery attempts; reduced recreational and development access; and increased regulation and compliance costs.
“We’ve reached a point where inaction will only dig us a deeper hole of controversy, litigation, lost business opportunities and declining fish and wildlife,” said Mr. Freudenthal. “I’m honored to co-chair the Blue Ribbon Panel with Johnny Morris to ensure wildlife and business prosper and divisiveness and reactionary conservation are a relict of the past.”
State hunting and fishing license dollars, federal excise taxes on hunting and fishing gear and motorboat fuel taxes have provided the backbone for funding states’ fish and wildlife conservation programs over the past century. However, there has always been a gap in dedicated funding for conserving the 95 percent of all species that are neither hunted nor fished.
Only partially filling that gap is the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program, the sole federal source of funding to state agencies to prevent new endangered species listings. Since 2010, the program’s funding has been cut by more than 35 percent.
“The diversity of wild species that inhabit this nation’s lands and waters belong to every American to experience, use and enjoy,” said Dan Forster, director of the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division and 2013-2014 president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “We owe it to the resources we manage and the public that pays our bills to not relent until we solve the fiscal predicament that looms if we don’t find a more equitable funding model for fish and wildlife conservation.”
Mr. Morris and Mr. Freudenthal intend to convene three meetings of the Blue Ribbon Panelover the course of a year to develop funding recommendations. The list of Blue Ribbon Panelists will be announced in the coming months. Staff from AFWA and state fish and wildlife agencies will support the work of the Panel.
The official announcement of the Blue Ribbon Panel co-chairs was made at the annual Teaming With Wildlife Fly-in Congressional Reception on Capitol Hill. Teaming With Wildlife is a national coalition of more than 6,400 conservation organizations and nature-based businesses – representing state fish and wildlife agencies, wildlife biologists, hunters and anglers, birdwatchers, hikers and other conservationists – to garner support for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program.

2014 Farm Bill Offers Voluntary Conservation Programs

The 2014 Farm Bill was enacted on February 7, 2014. In this new Farm Bill, NRCS offers voluntary conservation programs that benefit both agricultural producers and the environment. Producers will find that NRCS programs have been streamlined and are easier for them to use. Field staff will find that the new, simplified program structure will improve their ability to assist producers. The Farm Bill continues to provide producers with financial and technical assistance and promotes conservation stewardship. It also combines easement programs to make them more accessible.
Some of the key program changes include:
Financial assistance programs: The Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP, will absorb the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program and make similar practices available. The Conservation Stewardship Program and Agricultural Management Assistance will be continued.
Easement programs: The agency’s key easement programs will be merged into a new program called the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, or ACEP. ACEP includes the former Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program and Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program. Funding for wetland and grassland protection expired September 30, 2013, and the 2014 Farm Bill reinstates funding for these critical efforts under ACEP.
Partnership programs: The agency’s regional conservation efforts have a home in a new program—the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, or RCPP. Critical conservation areas for this new program will be designated by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. NRCS will also select project areas at the state and national level.
For more information on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit As policy and regulation are written, we will have more information forthcoming. With the tools and resources provided through the 2014 Farm Bill, NRCS stands committed to making a major difference in the quality of our natural resources.