The Impacts on Farmers & Ranchers
Farmers and ranchers will be drastically impacted if the lesser prairie chicken is reclassified as “endangered.” There will be a significant shift in their way of life, diminishing their incomes and affecting entire rural communities.
Under an “endangered” classification, crop producers would be prohibited from conducting routine activities. Their income would decrease; they would have less money to support their families and maintain their farming equipment and infrastructure.
- Use of weed and pest control products would be minimized or prohibited, decreasing crop yields and lowering profits.
- Land management mandates would force producers to manage and protect cover patches in areas utilized for widespread agriculture, decreasing the amount of active farm land.
- Irrigation systems woud be prohibited near lekking areas, decreasing the opportunity for producers to maximize their crop yields.
The ruling would force ranchers to implement conservation practices that would decrease food supplies for their herds, causing major shifts for the industry and a loss of revenue for ranchers.
- Grazing systems would be altered to create a mosaic of native grassland patches that would create more grass and shrub cover. This would require producers to reduce their herds or acquire more land to pasture their livestock. The length of time a producer could graze livestock would be shortened.
- Haying of native or alfalfa grasses may be prohibited.
- Grassland burning times would be altered which may allow invasive species to flourish and reduce grazing productivity.
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
- A Sherman County, Kansas landowner purchased expired CRP land and was denied Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) permission to return it to production as a result of the lesser prairie chicken listing.
- Morton County, Kansas landowners are being informed that any change to CRP acreage is automatically placed in the lesser prairie chicken program. Landowners have been prevented from breaking out expired CRP until a Habitat Conservation Plan is developed, preventing the land from being converted to crop land.
The Impacts on Rural Communities
Reduced grain and livestock production would be devastating for the region’s economic vitality. Rural communities rely on farmers and ranchers and their families. A large percentage of their businesses are connected to the farming and ranching industry and all would be impacted.
- Packing Plants
- Insurance Companies
- Implement & Car Dealerships
- Retail Businesses
Real Estate Values
Prior to the “threatened” listing, land in the habitat region typically sold for an average of $1,700 to $1,800 per acre. The average has dropped to $1,100 per acre. Under an “endangered” listing, real estate values will likely drop further, impacting home values and local economies.
Oil & Gas Industry
A number of drilling companies have indicated that the future of drilling in the habitat region is uncertain. This has been reflected in the nonrenewal of expired oil and gas leases. Kansas companies are reportedly diverting to Texas to avoid paying up to $55,000 in mitigation fees for each well in the habitat region.
Companies are reportedly prohibited from checking their wells until 9 a.m. so they do not disturb the lesser prairie chicken.
County Tax Bases
Land in permanent habitat easements will be removed from the county tax rolls. Counties will be forced to increase property taxes to make up the shortfall. County tax bases will be impacted by reduction in oil and gas exploration and lack of new wind farm development within the areas of prime habitat.
Wind Energy Development
Wind energy development projects have been abandoned in Clark County and Scott County, Kansas. The abandonment of these projects is a detriment to this clean energy initiative and means a significant loss of revenue for local communities and landowners.
The Kansas Electric Cooperative reports paying $11,000 to $22,000 in mitigation fees for distribution lines, totaling roughly $870,000 for one mile of transmission line. Mitigation fees of this magnitude will mean rising electric costs for communities in the affected area.
Numerous livestock feedlots in western Kansas hold, feed and prepare livestock for packing plants. If grain production is significantly reduced, feedlots will lose a primary source of livestock feed. They will cut back on their herds, reducing supply and increasing beef prices at local supermarkets.