Letter to the Times: Kansas is key to an endangered bird species’ future

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Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns and letters to the Times written by community members with varying perspectives on local issues. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

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The Kansas State Senate has condemned the federal government’s recent move to accord protection to the Lesser Prairie-Chicken (LPC) under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. We write in strong support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s science-based decision to list this highly iconic species of the shortgrass prairie. LPCs are genuinely in danger of extinction.

Kansas now has roughly 50% of the remaining LPCs, and thus is key to the species’ future. Although various agencies, both public and private, have been working with private landowners to conserve populations of the species, this hasn’t been enough. The severe drought in the state is further complicating conservation of the species, which has suffered greatly from widespread conversion of shortgrass prairie to agriculture. 

LPCs are an emblematic element of the natural heritage that makes the United States unique. We lament, for example, the extinction of Eskimo Curlews and Carolina Parakeets that once occurred in Kansas. LPC conservation can preserve crucial examples of the shortgrass prairie ecosystem, just as the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve preserves an extent of tallgrass prairie, the crucial habitat for the other prairie-chicken, the Greater Prairie-Chicken.

We sincerely believe that conserving wildlife such as LPCs is not in opposition to a vibrant economy, and that the new guidelines will help to ensure that we do not lose this iconic species and see further degradation to the shortgrass prairie ecosystem. Future generations will be grateful for such foresight.

— A. Townsend Peterson (he/him) and Mark B. Robbins (he/him), Lawrence, ornithologists employed at a local university

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