TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee voted Thursday to repeal a 39-year-old state law that provides for conservation measures to protect endangered species.
The action came during a meeting of the Senate Natural Resources Committee on a bill to remove two nonvenomous snakes from state protection.
Committee chairman Larry Powell, a Republican from Garden City, amended the snakes bill to repeal the 1975 endangered species law. Powell then placed the contents of the amended bill into an unrelated measure that has already passed the House — a tactic permitted by Kansas legislative procedure.
The Kansas Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act places the state Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism in charge of identifying and undertaking appropriate conservation measures for endangered species.
“It has been costing a lot of people across the state economic development,” Powell said.
Sen. Marci Francisco, of Lawrence, the ranking Democrat on the committee, opposed Powell’s tactic, saying it would prevent public comment on the potential rollback of the endangered species law.
Audubon of Kansas reacted with a news release denouncing Powell’s move as a “stealth attack” on the law and urging the public to contact lawmakers and ask that the bill be halted.
The redbelly and smooth earth snakes are rare in Kansas. But utility companies and officials in Johnson County had sought their removal from the state’s protected list, saying their status had held up some development.
At a January hearing, the secretary of the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism said the proposal would set a dangerous precedent. Secretary Robin Jennison said scientists, not lawmakers, should decide which animals need state protection.