Friday, January 24, 2014

The Most Important Chicken in Kansas

Kansas, have you met this guy? This is the Lesser Prairie Chicken. He lives here on the prairie in western Kansas. That's why they call him a Prairie Chicken. The forename is to differentiate him from the Greater Prairie Chicken, but he's not insecure about that or anything. Something about the motion of the ocean.

Les used to live in the big brown space pictured in the map above, but they kicked him out of Texas after too many bar fights. Then he made some poor investment decisions and they cut his hours back at the plant, so he had to move into a smaller pad. He lives in the little green spaces now, primarily in Kansas and Oklahoma. The green space is going the way of the brown space, shrinking all the time due to agricultural and energy developments.

As tough as he is, and in spite of the Lesser Prairie Chicken's record of 41-2 in the Texas bar fights, he is up against his toughest opponent. This is the guy who is gunning for the big K.O.

Chicken Hawk: Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach 

Kris Kobach has the Lesser Prairie Chicken in his sights. In fairness, it would be a lot of trouble to shoot them all one at a time, so he's urging legislators to pass a bill titled Enacting State Sovereignty Over Non-Migratory Wildlife Act. This bill will expose Les the Prairie Chicken to the cruelest of Kansas elements... the energy industry.

This was supposed to slip by us, I think. We are not supposed to care about something like this. It is, after all, a chicken. It's a chicken. I ate one for dinner last night. But this chicken really needs our help, and in turn, he might be able to do something big for us.

Like many of us Kansans, the Lesser Prairie Chicken is, as the bill mentions, non-migratory. This is his home year round. He has no place else to go. He plays a critical role in the ecology of the grassland, as does every species on the prairie. Because no one has been looking out for him, he has lost most of his native grassland habitat and will very likely be added to the list of threatened species in the U.S. this year if the federal agencies in charge of such things are allowed to advocate for him.

Senate Bill 276 would prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service imposing regulations to save the Prairie Chickens' native habitat from destruction at the hands of industry. If you read the language of SB 276, you'll see that Kobach presents that Kansas has been doing a fine job of protecting the Lesser and Greater Prairie Chickens as yet, and that the State would prefer no Federal agencies peeking in on them. In fact, the language of the bill makes it a felony for any federal agency to intervene on behalf of the Greater or Lesser Prairie Chickens. If you compare the above map with Kobach's assertion that the birds are thriving, it's pretty clear that few Prairie Chickens will take comfort in the hands that are trying to get ahold of their fate.

If SB 276 passes, the survival of our native nonmigratory bird species will rest solely with the Kansas legislature. Why is Kobach concerning himself with the Lesser and Greater Prairie Chickens? The answer is pretty simple. If their home becomes a federally protected habitat, the energy industries will be forced to reign in their to plan to desecrate what remains of it. Already more than 600 farmers and ranchers are participating in the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative, and have restored and protected more than one million acres on their behalf. SB 276 threatens to undo all that.

The Lesser Prairie Chicken is caught up in the fight of his life against the State of Kansas and the big energy companies (read: Koch Industries) that are designing legislation intended to put corporate profit ahead of the well being of the citizens of this state. Saving him, protecting his native home, would be a victory for us all and a message to Kobach that we are not going to passively accept the degradation of our prairie.

It's like that scene in Annie where the bad guy (Rooster) and his girlfriend pose as Annie's real parents so they can get the reward money from Daddy Warbucks, and you're watching them take her away and you're like No! No Annie! Don't go with them! Daddy Warbucks, don't let her go with them! Except in this situation Annie is a Prairie Chicken and Rooster is a shady Secretary of State. The Feds are Daddy Warbucks and we, the people of Kansas, we're Punjab. It's up to us to rescue Annie from the bad people and place her in the care of someone who can look out for her best interests.

We have to be this guy.

It's upon all of us to call bullshit on this one. This is an incredibly transparent effort on Kobach's part to protect the interests of industry at the expense of our environment. I've said it before and I'll say it until I die: they will not take this prairie without a fight from me. I started by contacting my state senate representatives, but I don't always know if they really hear me, so I'm inclined to do something more for the Prairie Chicken. I'm still thinking about what that will be, and pricing chicken suits for my one-man protest, but upon measuring my level of commitment to the Lesser Prairie Chicken, I find that I feel entirely hell bent on saving him from the bad guys. If we can convince our fellow statesmen to notice what's happening to a chicken out west, maybe we can reclaim a small part of our home from the greedy hands that would abuse it. 

Save the Prairie Chickens!!!

Update 1/27  Sign the petition to end this bill in the Kansas Senate.
I will forward the petition to the members of the Committee on Natural Resources and the rest of the senate. Then I will deliver a copy to the Secretary of State's office wearing this chicken suit:


  1. I love your love of Kansas, and the style of writing and activism you use to fight for my home state. Annie metaphor, brilliant.

    Kobach is the devil. Save the chicken!!!

  2. I've hunted Prairie Chickens my entire life. Greater, never lesser. The greater's numbers this year were the best numbers we've seen in twenty years.

    Save the chicken!!

  3. The only way to reason with an unreasonable politician is with dollars. If a case can be put together showing the amount of money brought in to the state because of the Prairie Chickens (either Lesser or Greater) then an impact may be had.

  4. I grew up on the Colorado-Kansas state line. If it were about the Prairie Chicken only, but there are many other species turtles, toads, snakes (yes snakes) lizards...only to name a few that are in trouble. Drought and other factors are putting the prairie at great risk. Why do we have to insist in helping all these species disappear just for oil??? It isn't only the prairie chicken in trouble .... it is us!!

  5. What can we do to help? I'm in NYS but have been following the news about endangered bird species for some time. These Prairie Chickens are the closest relatives to the now-extinct Heath Hen from New England. :(

  6. That's a great question! We can start by petitioning the state senate not to enact this bill.


  7. This guy's a moron, but the bill is hilariously unconstitutional. A state can't just pass a law exempting itself from federal law. Prairie-chicken would still be protected under the same laws they are now no matter what this guy wants.

  8. The things most endangered are the American farm families in the Prairie Chicken areas. The USFWS isn't the answer to the problem.

    1. Seems as though they are trying to find a compromise to me:

  9. Have you read the details of the compromise? It pretty much says if you voluntarily give us complete control of your farming operation we promise not to put you out of business.

    1. Whatever your beef is with the USFWS,this bill is not the answer. It leaves the LPC vulnerable, and you can bet they will not be looked after by the State of Kansas. Kobach and co. will be too busy in court trying to find some constitutional merit for this nonsense.

    2. Perhaps. My beef is in the paperwork. Unless you have read ALL the documents (more than a thousand pages over all) and understand how it will apply to the consumer owned Rural Electrical companies, farm and ranches in the area, be careful the stand you take. Costs trickle downward and we will each get our share. I don't want the LPC to disappear, but the issue isn't a simple as it sound. Ask the families who lost their jobs to the Spotted Owl.

  10. What other non-migratory species in Kansas would be impacted by this bill? Black-footed ferrets?