Review nearing completion
By MIKE CORN
There's a flurry of activity on the threatened-and-endangered-species front, as the state's wildlife agency conducts what otherwise would be a routine five-year review.
One of those changes is being driven by a petition filed by Curtis Schmidt, who is urging the listing of the northern long-eared bat as threatened.
Schmidt is collections manager at Sternberg Museum of Natural History, and the co-author of "Bats of Kansas."
The northern long-eared bat was one of 10 species discussed Wednesday during the final informational meeting of the threatened and endangered species task force created by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
KDWP&T every five years must conduct a review of the state's threatened and endangered species list, and consider any new petitions for either downlisting or adding a species.
This year, the state's endangered species process has been under fire in the Kansas Legislature, with a number of pieces of legislation either trying to delist species or get rid of the process entirely.
"It still could happen," said Ed Miller, in charge of the state's endangered species division.
There's also the issue of the lesser prairie chicken, listed as threatened in late March by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Kansas has threatened to declare its sovereign status over the bird, because it's not a migratory species.
The birds' listing also means KDWP&T Secretary Robin Jennison must now consider it for possible inclusion on the state's endangered species list as well.
Currently, there's 60 species listed as either endangered or threatened in Kansas.
During the last review, the bald eagle was removed from the list, and Miller said it's doing well.
There are now anywhere from 75 to 80 documented bald eagle nests in Kansas, he said. The first documented nest was discovered in 1981.
This time around, 10 species are being reviewed, the first time more species are being considered for delisting than being added.
Only the northern long-eared bat is under consideration as an addition to the list.
Petitioned for removal from the list are the Eskimo curlew, a black-capped vireo, many-ribbed salamander, chestnut lamprey, silverband shiner, spring peeper, redbelly snake and the smooth earth snake.
Jennison requested a review of the threatened status of the longnose snake.
Most of the reviews were either suggested by KDWP&T or the T&E task force, but reviews of the redbelly and smooth earth snakes are being sought by government agencies in Johnson County, the driving force of legislation before the Kansas Legislature.
Schmidt also submitted a petition to add the Franklin's ground squirrel to the list, but a lack of information is preventing its consideration.
As a result, however, a Fort Hays State University student is gearing up to study the squirrel as part of his master's thesis.
Also, the Kansas Livestock Association submitted 26 petitions to strip protection for species, but those aren't being considered because they were incomplete, Miller said.
Most of the other species -- the Eskimo curlew, black-capped vireo, many-ribbed salamander, chestnut lamprey and silverband shiner -- are being considered for removal because it's unlikely there's a "viable" population remaining in Kansas.
That viability issue is critical for keeping a species on the list.
The spring peeper, a small frog, is being considered for downlisting to a species in need of conservation because more breeding locations have been found.
Miller said the T&E task force, which includes FHSU professors Mark Eberle and Elmer Finck among its members, hope to complete their recommendations by June 1.
Those recommendations will be forwarded to Jennison, opening a 90-day comment period.
After that comment period closes, the agency's commission then votes on the recommendations.