Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism secretary, Robin Jennison, on Thursday spoke with concern about a recent legislative attempt to repeal the Kansas endangered species act. It currently protects about 60 species of assorted Kansas wildlife and has been in place for about 40 years.
At a Topeka Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting, Jennison said the concept of revoking the endangered species act had been added to House Bill 2118, a bill which removed the red-bellied and smooth earth snakes from the state’s threatened and endangered species lists. Fear of damaging populations of both species has hindered land use in the Kansas City area. Jennison said the even more restrictive amendment had been added Thursday morning, as the bill was being discussed within the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
Sen. Larry Powell, R-Garden City, the committee chairman, added the amendment for total revocation shortly before the bill passed from committee. The bill has already passed the Kansas house and now awaits action in the full Senate.
Jennison already had great concerns with species, especially those endangered or threatened, being managed by legislative mandates. Currently, he said, only four states do not have endangered species acts.
“Science needs to have some basis in these decisions,” said Jennison, who also warned of possible federal interventions should the state’s endangered species act be revoked.
Powell, who has consistently opposed the department on issues including wildlife habitat improvement, providing more public lands and endangered species, surprised the agency when he made Thursday’s amendment to the existing bill.
Jennison said he would “be shocked” if the existing bill passes through the Senate, but added the bill would certainly have some strong support and needed organized opposition.
“I know there are people in the legislature who think we should not have threatened and endangered species lists,” Jennison said.
Several times Commissioner Don Budd, a Kansas City developer, asked questions about red-bellied and smooth earth snakes, stating the department needed to use caution because their action could trigger more extreme, over-riding action from the legislature.
Jennison insisted the agency should act on what science says is best for a species. Rep. Will Carpenter, R-El Dorado, attended the evening session. Carpenter spent many years as a Wildlife and Parks Commissioner, and agreed with Jennison.
“You guys are in charge of the stewardship of the wildlife of this state,” Carpenter said to the commission. “You’ve got to be the voice.”