• Charlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission hears pitch from an organization to join for $5,000

Updated: Nov 18

MOUND CITY – Tracey Barton, Executive Director of the Kansas Natural Resources Coalition (KNRC) met with the Linn County Commissioners on Monday, Nov.14, encouraging them to join the KNRC.

Barton told the commissioners the KRNC is coalition of 30 counties in Kansas and passed out information that showed that most of the member counties were from the western part of the state but that Coffey County had joined the first part of 2022.

She said that she had recently spoken at a Kansas County Commissioners Association (KCCA) meeting and several eastern Kansas counties were interested in joining the KRNC.

She explained that the KRNC monitors and when appropriate intervenes to reduce the impact of the federal government and their overreach when it impacts counties in the areas of natural resources and land use.

She said that they typically work at the federal level, but last year when the Kansas Legislature was gathering testimony as it related to the “30-by-30” plan and the National Heritage Area (NHA), the KRNC had the opportunity to provide public testimony on behalf of our counties and came in as an expert witness to explain what 30-by-30 is.

Her group was able to add some definition to that. Our group took a stance against 30-by-30 plan as well as the NHA last year at our meeting, said Barton.

Soon after taking office in 2021 President Joe Biden established a national goal to conserve at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and freshwater and 30 percent of U.S. ocean areas by 2030, in an initiative commonly referred to as 30-by-30.

According to a Congressional Research Office in February 2020, released shortly after Biden took office, the federal government owned or controlled about 28 percent of the land in the United States.

By establishing the initiative, Biden sought to reverse the negative impacts of biodiversity decline and climate change by protecting more natural areas, and to increase access to nature for communities that lack it.

However, the move was seen by conservative groups as a land grab to take more land out of the hands of private owners and make it federal property.

In her pitch to the commission, Barton said that the KRNC is now taking an active approach on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because they are trying to change the 10(j) rule. What that means is that, with endangered and threatened species, they have previously been limited to relocate animals based on their historical range.

She said that now what they were trying to do was change the wording so that “historical range” is excluded meaning that they would have free range to take any endangered or threatened species and locate it wherever they see fit.

“The danger in that is that once that happens a critical habitat is eventually defined, as we believe it would be, and they are going to control how you use your property,” said Barton.

So the KNRC has submitted comments, said Barton. That is a national endeavor with our sister organization in Montana and we have submitted comments from both states contradicting that rule change.

Commission Chair Jim Johnson asked if there were only two states that have an organization like this.

She said that Utah is in the process of forming an organization as are a couple of other states.

Commissioner Rick James asked where the organization got its funding.

Barton said that the funding comes solely from the $5,000 membership fee from county members and they were not considered lobbyists. She said they were considered an extension of county governments.

Commission Chair Jim Johnson told Barton that they were missing a commission member at the meeting, and besides that they would have to think about joining.

Last year commissioners were persuaded by a woman from Allen, Kan., to opt the county out of the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage area, believing it was part of the 30-by-30 “land grab” plan.

Instead, the main goal of that organization is to promote education about the history of counties in the NHA, which included Linn County, said Jim Ogle, executive director of Freedom's Foundation. Ogle said he was aware that the woman was spreading misinformation about the KHA, which under its charter cannot purchase property.

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