Legislative Battles Ahead?

Opposing Destructive Policy and Inspiring Better Ideas 

Development of the 2018 Farm Bill, specifically the conservation titles, is of particular importance to wildlife--and thus to Audubon of Kansas.  We are one of the few grassroots organizations that actively promote wildlife conservation and protection of vital habitats of prairies/grasslands, wetlands and woodlands with our advocacy in the capitol and other venues. 

Sometimes AOK is the only organization involved, as last week when we joined a western Kansas ranch landowner at a county commission meeting. He wants to retain prairie dogs on his land and values the Ferruginous Hawks and eagles that gather there every fall, winter and early spring.

We not only oppose destructive bills and administrative actions, but also strive to be proactive and help inspire sponsorship of highly beneficial legislation. 

Scenic native prairie/ranchland protected with a conservation easement in the Flint Hills. Photo by Ron Klataske

Scenic native prairie/ranchland protected with a conservation easement in the Flint Hills. Photo by Ron Klataske

Assault on Conservation Easements

The worst bill introduced in the Kansas Legislature in 2017 was House Bill 2199. It was designed to eliminate perpetual conservation easement programs, as we know them in the state of Kansas.  The bill was sponsored by Representative Ron Highland (R-Wamego), possibly on behalf of a former anti-conservation senator who had previously sponsored similar bills.  Fortunately, this "Zombie Bill" remained in the House Federal & State Affairs Committee and a hearing was not scheduled.  Technically it remains alive; thus members of the Kansas House of Representatives should be urged ahead of time to indicate they will do what they can to kill it if it emerges from the darkness.

The Kansas Farm Bureau (KFB) seems to be the one organization in the state that has heartburn over the existence of conservation easements, although conservation easements are voluntary instruments available to landowners who want to protect the legacy of agricultural and natural landscape values of their land.  The Kansas Farm Bureau announced on January 5 that the KFB "board of directors has approved an emerging issues committee to discuss conservation easements."  The online posting stated, "We need your help and input.  There are two ways members can participate: 1) volunteer to be a committee member, and/or 2) share your story about how you've been impacted by an agreement."

In the next weekly update and coming weeks, we will provide an update on one or more new positive wildlife and prairie conservation measures that AOK hopes to request for legislative consideration.

--Ron Klataske