Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today sent a letter to Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe urging FWS not to list the Lesser Prairie-Chicken (LPC) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because the circumstances surrounding the species are very similar to those which led to the Sand Dune Lizard not having to be listed. The letter was signed by the entire Oklahoma delegation including Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), Representative James Lankford (R-OK), Representative Tom Cole (R-OK), Representative John Sullivan (R-OK), Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Representative Dan Boren (D-OK), along with members representing the following States: Texas - Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Representative Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), Representative Michael Conaway (R-TX), Representative Francisco "Quico" Canseco (R-TX) and Representative Randy Neugebauer (R-TX); Kansas - Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), Representative Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Representative Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS); New Mexico - Representative Stevan Pearce (R-NM); and Colorado - Representative Corey Gardner (R-CO).
As the members wrote, in Oklahoma, voluntary efforts have directed $42 million towards Lesser Prairie-Chicken preservation and led to management activities being put in place on at least 563,000 acres of habitat within LPC range; these efforts have resulted "in promising trends and discoveries indicating LPC populations are stabilizing and many of the threats catapulting the LPC to a high priority species are not materializing."
Senator Inhofe: "It was extremely encouraging that after FWS announced it would not list the Sand Dune Lizard under the ESA, Director Ashe assured me that Oklahoma has the 'right ingredients' for a similar decision on the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. Today I am pleased to team up with the Oklahoma delegation and several other members formally to request that FWS make a similar 'not warranted' decision on the Lesser Prairie-Chicken due to extensive voluntary efforts which have been successful in stabilizing the species. I've always said voluntary efforts produce real results because they help preserve the species without destroying jobs or harming the economy, while ESA listings more often cause great economic pain while failing to recover the species. I look forward to hearing the good news that, like the Sand Dune Lizard, a listing for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken is not necessary."
Representative Lankford: "Classifying the Lesser Prairie Chicken as endangered is another example of the federal government creating a problem that doesn't exist. We can protect animal habitats while also preserving the rights of landowners. Oklahomans understand the importance of preserving wildlife, which is why state and local entities have made survival of the Lesser Prairie Chicken a priority. As a result, the population has thrived and once again proved those closest to the problems can find the best solutions."
Representative Lucas: "The conservation efforts we have seen from the Lesser Prairie Chicken Interstate Working Group have already proven effective and it is our hope that the Fish and Wildlife Services will recognize the positive results that have already occurred. It is important that the Lesser Prairie Chicken remains off the endangered species list to preserve the future of the industries important to the Third District of Oklahoma."
As Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Senator Inhofe has made it a priority to avoid a listing of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken under the Endangered Species Act, working closely with FWS Director Dan Ashe to advance public-private partnerships to preserve the species.
Senator Inhofe was pleased to welcome Director Ashe to Oklahoma last September to listen to Oklahomans' concerns about how a listing of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken would negatively affect agriculture, the construction of highway infrastructure, and energy development, especially wind development projects in the Woodward area. Importantly, Director Ashe heard about the extensive voluntary efforts underway in Oklahoma, which have been successful in stabilizing the Lesser Prairie-Chicken population.
At an Environment and Public Works hearing in April 2012, Director Ashe gave Senator Inhofe his assurance that FWS 'will provide as much flexibility as [it] can' for Oklahoma as it goes forward with a listing decision for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. He also said that he sees Oklahoma as a 'leader' in voluntary efforts. Later in June 2012, Director Ashe called Senator Inhofe to inform him that FWS would not list the Sand Dune Lizard under ESA due to the tremendous success of voluntary efforts and said that Oklahoma has the 'right ingredients' for a similar decision on the Lesser Prairie-Chicken.
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