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Threatened species debate part of KDWPT meeting

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, June 14, 2014, at 5:53 p.m.

Changes in regulations to threatened and endangered species, the setting of waterfowl seasons, and the use of dogs to locate wounded or dead deer will draw discussion, and possibly spirited debate, at Thursday’s Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commission meeting in Pittsburg.

Chris Tymeson, Wildlife and Parks attorney, said commissioners will also be asked to vote on several regulations pertaining to public lands, big game, early migrant and prairie chickens. None of those topics represent radical changes, except closing a major part of western Kansas to all kinds of prairie chicken hunting because lesser prairie chickens are now on the federal threatened species list.

Tymeson said the department is doing a five-year review of the Kansas threatened and endangered species regulations. Some changes will be proposed and discussed, but voted on at a future meeting.

Some species that haven’t been found in the state for more than 50 years will be removed from the list, according to a department proposal. Several species that have been considered threatened in the past will be recommended to be upgraded to “species in need of conservation” status, which removes much of the state’s protection.

Among those recommended are the smooth earth snake and the redbelly snake, two species that have hindered development in parts of the Kansas City area under their threatened listing.

Tymeson said the Kansas Threatened and Endangered Species committee, made up of biologists from several universities and Wildlife and Parks, is recommending smooth earth snakes be upgraded to SINC status but the biologists thought redbelly snakes should retain their threatened status.

Tymeson said the department isn’t accepting the the committee’s request and will recommend the redbelly snake also be upgraded to SINC status.

Redbelly and smooth earth snakes drew a lot of attention earlier this year when a legislative bill was introduced to remove both species from the threatened list, largely to help development in the Johnson County area. Getting protection for the two species removed also contributed to another bill that would have entirely revoked the Kansas threatened and endangered species act.

Commissioners will again discuss the possible season dates for the state’s upcoming waterfowl seasons. The past two years they have rejected several of the department recommendations. At an April meeting in Wichita, commissioners Donald Budd, Randy Doll and Roger Marshall strongly objected to the state’s waterfowl hunter survey system, questioning its accuracy and the job being done by agency biologists. Waterfowl regulations will be put to a vote at an Aug. 21 meeting near Great Bend.

Also scheduled to be debated Thursday is a proposed regulation to allow unarmed hunters to use leashed dogs to help track and located dead and wounded deer.

Thursday’s meeting, with sessions at 1 and 6:30 p.m., will be held at the Lamplighter Inn, 4020 Parkview Drive in Pittsburg. For more information, or to view the meeting online, go to www.kdwpt.state.ks.us.

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