Kansas oil producer knocks prairie chicken status

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A Wichita oil company executive says the federal
government's listing of the lesser prairie chicken as threatened has hampered
his firm's operations in western Kansas.

Vess Oil Corp. chairman J. Michael Vess said Tuesday his company recently
abandoned three western Kansas sites where it was ready to put up drilling rigs.
He said it has backed away from exploring 10 to 15 sites because of the listing.

Vess joined Gov. Sam Brownback at a news conference Tuesday in Wichita about
the listing.

Vess blamed potential fees from the federal government and other requirements
to help preserve lesser prairie chicken habitats.

The federal government announced the listing in March and said it's justified
by the steep decline in the bird's population in recent years.

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