Dear MoBirders,
I wanted to update you on the rapidly changing situation in Kansas regarding the reintroduction of the Black-footed Ferret. John Barnhardt is a GOAS member whose parents own one of the reintroduction sites. I believe that this is truly a Missouri bird issue as well as a Kansas issue.
Below I have posted the text from a statement that John's sister Rebecca made to the Kansas legislature yesterday. It's a beautiful piece, reflecting back to her work long ago when she displayed a precocious understanding of predator/prey relationships as a nine year old. It reminds of why it is so important for us at ASM to encourage young people to share their passion for the out of doors so that we can ensure that we continue to have staunch supporters of wildlife, like Rebecca, among us. More importantly, it conveys the urgency with which Audubon of Kansas, USFWS, other conservation groups and us face in defending bird and mammals species from the new "extinctionist" movement.
If you have time, please take a moment to to write email letters and/or make phone calls to Kansas state senators. They can be as simple as asking each senator to vote "no" on SR 1711, or one can elaborate more fully on one's personal or professional views. Many of us in Missouri have looked upon the beauty of a Kansas Prairie Dog town, and experienced species like Burrowing Owls and Ferruginous Hawks that depend upon them. So, it's a Missouri bird issue, too.
Text of Rebecca Barnhardt statement below. Apologies ahead of time to any who feel this is an inappropriate post,
Good birding,
Greg Swick
Ozark, Missouri

Statement by Rebecca Barnhardt, Bucklin , Kansas

In Opposition to Senate Resolution 1711

February 14, 2013

Forty-two years ago, I prepared and presented a talk entitled “Predators Need to Prey”for the Cowley County 4-H Days. It discussed the balance of nature and how Mother Nature provided a method to control the population of plentiful herbivores. Very simply, herbivores served as a food source for the less-abundant predators. Although I was only 9 years old, I understood this delicate balance that the earth had created. Sadly, a few residents of Logan County, Kansas mistakenly believe they can totally“improve” Mother Nature’s design and use the poison Rozol to not only control but also ERADICATE the native prairie dog from the short grass prairie.

Logan County currently has a population of prairie dogs living on private land. Prairie dogs are THE keystone animal in the prairie ecology, and many prairie species rely on prairie dogs not only for food but also for housing. Swift foxes, snakes, Ornate Box Turtles, several species of toads, frogs and salamanders, several species of reptiles including lizards and snakes, and a diversity of invertebrates including tumble bugs use prairie dog burrows at various times of the year. In the summer, Burrowing Owls nest and raise their young in prairie dog holes, as do Swift Foxes when they modify the burrows as dens.

Raptors, including Ferruginous Hawks, Golden Eagles and Bald Eagles, Swift Foxes, Coyotes, Badgers, and yes, the Black-Footed Ferret, rely on the prairie dog for food. Without the prairie dog, many of these animals will become scarce or disappear altogether from some parts of our prairie landscape.

The prevailing attitude in Logan County is that poisoning with Rozol is the answer to control the prairie dog population. It IS effective, but what many people don’t realize is that Rozol is a second-generation poison. This means that a predator that eats a poisoned prairie dog is also poisoned, and many die the same excruciating death as a poisoned prairie dog. Federally protected species such as Ferruginous Hawks, Golden Eagles, and Bald Eagles have all been victims of secondary Rozol poisoning, as have been imperiled species including Swift Foxes.

Black-footed Ferrets are THE MOST endangered mammal in North America. Kansas is LUCKY to have a reintroduction site and private landowners willing to host them. My parents, Gordon and Martha Barnhardt, along with Larry and Betty Haverfield and Mrs. Blank are these landowners. They also want to control the population of prairie dogs but want to do it without spreading toxins throughout the environment. Black-footed Ferrets are an obligate predator of prairie dogs—and part of the natural method of prairie dog control that they prefer.

Neighbors are provided, at no cost to themselves, control of prairie dogs that stray onto their land. Additionally, a variety of measures, including special fencing, have been put around the BFF reintroduction sites to substantially diminish movement of prairie dogs onto neighboring property.

Gordon and Martha Barnhardt are private landowners who have the right to manage the prairie dog population on their property in the manner that they choose. They did not introduce prairie dogs to this property. Prairie dogs have lived in this area for millions of years.

It is important to keep and preserve examples of the different native bio-types. The short grass prairie is the one at hand. We have a responsibility to future generations to keep some examples of native North America as close to how it originally existed as we can. Buffalo herds are gone, replaced by cattle as the large grazers. Prairie dogs are the small grazers, and more importantly, the keystone species that many other species of conservation concern depend on.

It would be foolish and shortsighted to drive prairie dogs to extinction, which appears to be the goal of the Logan County Commissioners, the Kansas Farm Bureau, and some local politicians. The loss of the prairie dog will result in the loss of much of the richness of wildlife on the short grass prairie as we know it. And future 9-year- olds will no longer be able to see Mother Nature’s ingenious design at work.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: John Barnhardt <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 10:38 PM
Subject: Senate Resolution Threatens Credibility of the State of Kansas
To: Greg Swick <[log in to unmask]>

Hi Greg,

Thank you for forwarding the last alert from Ron Klataske. I don't know if you received the update or not, but just in case, I am forwarding it to you. They are truly moving fast and by the dark of night on this. I found out tonight that my Dad was not aware that this was happening. He was not surprised as he expected it, but he did not know it was happening now. Like many in their generation, my parents don't exactly live on line. They do get email, but I think they check it semiannually. I hope that as the light is turned on to what is going on in Western Kansas, support will pour in to the KS Audubon and they will successfully put a stop to this bill. Maybe they can even get the horrible law overturned in KS that you have to poison prairie dogs on your property. If we can get the ferrets established, the poison won't be necessary, and the secondary killing of foxes, eagles, owls, etc will stop as well. Be sure to click on the link and read the statement written by Ron Klataske. He is doing a wonderful job on a very divisive issue in the state of KS.

Thank you again!

Take care,

John Barnhardt

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Feb 18, 2013

Senate Resolution Threatens Credibility of the State of Kansas


Audubon of Kansas Action Alert

February 18, 2013


A resolution designed to undermine the efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, private ranch landowners and other conservation partners to re-establish federally endangered Black-footed Ferrets on two specific Logan County sites in western Kansas was pushed out of committee and to the full Kansas Senate on Friday, February 15. Advocates of Senate Resolution 1711 are trying to have it approved as soon as possible, in part to diminish the time citizens who support wildlife conservation have to contact senators to urge them to vote against the resolution.
One of the released ferrets on the Maxine Blank property, October 2008
One of the released ferrets on the Maxine Blank property, October 2008

Audubon of Kansas is urging members and other conservation partners who are concerned to write their respective state senators, and ideally all state senators, to express their views on the subject.  A list of all state senators and their respective email addresses and phone numbers is provided here.  A number of people have sent letters already to members of the committee, but now other senators need to hear from folks-maybe with the exception of Senator Larry Powell R-Garden City and Senator Ralph Ostmeyer R-Grinnel who are the proponents of the resolution, and apparently not much interested in other views. They are pushing a fast track for this resolution and even want to have it sent it to other states to undermine the efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service elsewhere.


Email letters and/or phone calls can be as simple as asking each senator to vote "no" on SR 1711, or one can elaborate more fully on one's personal or professional views.  As an example of the latter, AOK Trustee Evelyn Davis's letter written earlier today is provided here.


Senator Marci Francisco was able to make a couple changes in committee to try to improve the resolution (one of the amendments successfully removed the WHEREAS that claimed the reintroduction was "expensive and unsuccessful"), but the resolution is still a systemically horrible and intentionally destructive instrument of propaganda.  Please see the statement I presented to the committee on Friday for a list of some of the misinformation in the resolution that is still intact.    


Senate Resolution 1711 Threatens the Credibility of the State of Kansas.

One of the first ferrets returned to Kansas, December 17, 2007 on the Barnhardt property
One of the first ferrets returned to Kansas, December 17, 2007 on the Barnhardt property
Although the anti-wildlife conservation resolution--promoted by the Kansas Farm Bureau--is specific to the Black-footed Ferret reintroduction project, the negative consequences for the credibility of the State of Kansas are much greater.  If passed it would undermine the arguments of Kansas agencies (especially the KDWP&T and the Kansas Department of Agriculture) in their efforts to try to reassure the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (and other stakeholders) that the Lesser Prairie-chicken will not need to be listed as a federally threatened species because the state will implement management plans to provide and improve sufficient habitat to recover the species from its downward population spiral.


Along that same line of advocacy, a "Black-tailed Prairie Dog Conservation & Management Plan" was developed in 2002 by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, with the involvement of many stakeholders.  The idea was to implement practices and policies that would convince the federal government to not list the Black-tailed Prairie Dog as a threatened species.  It helped make the case, but the State of Kansas has not lived up to the commitments made or its obligations.  


Interms of on-the-ground conservation objectives, the Kansas Conservation Strategy articulated five population and colony complex objectives in that document.  One was to "Maintain one (prairie dog) complex greater than 5000 acres."   The three ranch landowners who have property included in Haverfield Ranch Complex are meeting that objective.  For the benefit of the Kansas plan, and for the public interest in the plan, this property is the ONLY property that comes close to achieving ANY of the state conservation objectives-and it is also the most important Black-footed Ferret reintroduction site in the state.   


Audubon of Kansas believes that we all owe those three landowners a debt of gratitude for their commitment to these conservation initiatives.  None of the other objectives have been met by the State of Kansas, and it is disappointing that state officials have not applauded the actions of these landowners-and/or offered to do more to partner with them to enhance prospects for all aspects of success.   


Further, it is disappointing that the State Legislature has not repealed the century-old antiquated eradication statutes which violate private property rights and undermine conservation initiatives.  Those statutes are being used by some county officials to push prairie dogs toward the status of threatened in Kansas, along with several species which depend upon prairie dogs and their burrows for prey and habitat. Most Kansans want to do better.  (See website link and results of a survey below for more specific details on the high levels of support for recovery of endangered species.) 


Kansas Residents' Opinions on Threatened and Endangered Wildlife and Actions to Protect Wildlife by Responsive Management, KDWP&T:


"An overwhelming majority of Kansas residents (91%) agree that the Department should continue to identify and protect habitat critical to the existence of threatened and endangered wildlife."

"A majority of landowners would strongly or moderately support the reintroduction of a threatened and endangered wildlife species to its historical range if that range was near or adjacent to the landowner's property: 66% would support."

The Kansas Farm Bureau has several lobbyists working their anti-wildlife agenda at the state capitol.  Unfortunately they were able to get the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) to testify in favor of the resolution with misinformation, and keep the Secretary of KDWP&T from strongly supporting restoration of our state's wildlife heritage, as he should have done.  (By the way KDA also opposed creation of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve!).  And, Aaron Popelka, a lobbyist with the Kansas Livestock Association is also promoting the resolution with misinformation.  


Separately, Aaron Popelka got a bill (H.B. 2362) introduced on Friday in the Kansas House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture and National Resources designed to eviscerate the state Nongame, Threatened and Endangered Species Act passed in the mid 1970s so that developers of corporate-scale feedlots would not have to consider or mitigate damage to state threatened and endangered species or their critical habitats. (On that subject, we are urging members to write to members of that committee, but hopefully there will be some time before a hearing is scheduled.)

It is tragic that state senators and representatives are being pushed, like never before, by these special interests to undermine wildlife conservation measures in Kansas.  They apparently want to replace the 20th Century gains of conservationists accomplished between the 1930s and 1990s with actions more akin to the market hunters who killed Bison, Eskimo Curlews and Prairie Chickens without regard for the consequences.  They could better be described as "extinctionists;" they were certainly not "conservationists."  


The State's credibility is being totally undermined by a combination of these entities, some elected officials and a couple politically appointed agency administrators. 


Ron Klataske
Executive Director
Audubon of Kansas 


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Greg Swick, Co-Director
Green Leadership Academy for Diverse Ecosystems (GLADE)
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I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. ~Henry David Thoreau

Greg Swick, Co-Director
Green Leadership Academy for Diverse Ecosystems (GLADE)
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I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. ~Henry David Thoreau

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