Gov. Sam Brownback says he is fed up with the overreach of the federal government and he is going to push back against it every way that he can.
In a Thursday press conference at the 3i Show in Dodge City, the governor announced specific action on two fronts: the listing of the lesser prairie as a threatened species and the Waters of the United States proposed rule to clarify the Clean Water Act.
Brownback pointed out that a July 1 survey lesser prairie chicken population found that numbers of birds had increased by 20% -- not because of anything that anyone did but because it finally rained in western Kansas, which is the largest swath of habitat for the chickens.
Brownback said if the federal government was serious about wanting to help the birds, it would increase the amount of Conservation Reserve Program acres in the region. Instead, acreage has been repeatedly reduced over the last several years.
"CRP land provides excellent habitat for prairie chickens and reducing acres reduces habitats which reduces numbers," he said. "It makes perfect sense to increase acres if you want more birds."
Brownback said the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is taking the effort to increase numbers a step further but beginning a prairie chicken propagation program, similar to the breeding program the state instituted after numbers dropped drastically in the drought of the 1950s.
"It will take some effort and it won't be without challenges, but we're going to show that we are serious about increasing the numbers."
The governor said that the state is also pursuing a lawsuit to force the Fish and Wildlife service e to pull back on the listing of the lesser prairie chicken.
Waters of the U.S.
The Waters of the U.S. proposed regulation poses a threat to Kansas, to the sovereignty of state and the freedom of its people, Brownback said.
"We in Kansas, we fight for our water, we have been involved in three lawsuits over water rights. We will protect our water and there is no reason for the federal government to have further intrusion into Kansas," he said.
Brownback said the EPAs draft regulation could "ridiculously require permits for all routine farming practices" and "regulate every puddle, pond and ditch."
"We don't want the government to take our water rights and we are sending a letter to President Obama asking him to withdraw the proposed rule and we are directing the Department of Agriculture to send comments on the rule.
Brownback discounted the comments from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who has repeatedly said that the proposed rule exempts all normal farming practices from any need for permitting or oversight and does not expand the jurisdiction of the EPA at all.
"I've been around government a long time and I know that you can propose a law and have great intent and then it gets interpreted and the regulations are 10 times the length of the original law. I know that in my own experience I had times I supported a law and then when the regulations were done, I didn't even support it anymore."
He said the real problem is the federal government "trying to do things it was never created to do."
Water was supposed to be in the control of the states.
"We don't want the federal government to be involved in the regulation of water, it has always been a state issue, we want to do it our way, set the standard and let people figure out the way they want to get things done," he said.
Brownback said the Obama administration is simply trying to expand federal government and make control of people's lives.
"The federal government was never supposed to have all these powers, it was supposed to provide for the common defense, issue patents and so forth, but never to do all these things. You are not going to be happy with this federal takeover of health care and the rationing like we've seen with the VA mess and all the waits. Making people wait, that's how you ration."
He called on his legal adviser Brant Lowe to talk about specific language that he thinks could be interpreted to the detriment of farmers and ranchers.
Lowe said the rule would be subject to interpretation.
"It is 300 pages long and the difficulty is it assigns a lot of discretion to the EPA to decide what is a tributary and what is connected and they could decide anything they want to decide. I guess maybe the word is getting out when they say the things they are saying now. I think maybe the comments that Kansas sends in should say we want to see that discretionary authority pulled back. We don't want them to have that power."