Congressman Tim Huelskamp today released the text of a letter he received from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Daniel Ashe regarding the potential listing of the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act.
"We appreciate the response from Director Ashe, and his promise to re-open the LPC comment period," Huelskamp said. "FWS responded to each of the concerns in the letter that I sent with several of my colleagues by permitting additional comments to be submitted regarding the regional plan, agreeing to provide timely feedback and approval of CCAAs, and being willing to sit down with Members of Congress whose districts will be affected by this decision. This is a positive step in the effort to demonstrate to FWS the effectiveness of state and local governments, businesses, and landowners in protecting the habitat and population of the lesser prairie chicken. I am confident that the regional plan, if fairly reviewed, will be sufficient to avoid listing of the LPC so as to protect the rights of individual landowners and states."
The Lesser Prairie-Chicken can be found in grasslands in Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. Despite having faced one of the worst droughts on record in recent years, the prairie chicken population is on the rise or holding steady in many parts of the country, including Kansas, suggesting the success of current agreements and calling into question the need for federal regulation.
The letter from Director Ashe was sent in response to a joint letter from 9 Members of Congress requesting an extension of the comment period, currently slated to end on March 11, 2013, for the rule regarding the listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a "threatened" species under the Endangered Species Act; a delay to the final listing deadline, currently slated for September 30, 2013; swift approval of the Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAA) plan for oil and gas extraction in the 5-state habitat region; and an in-person meeting between Members of Congress and Director Ashe. A copy of the original letter can be found here. A copy of Director Ashe's response can be found here.
Comments regarding the potential listing can be submitted via the USFWS website, at: http://www.regulations.gov, and search for Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2012-0071.