Congressman Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) joined other members of Congress yesterday to speak with Fish & Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe about the proposal to list the Lesser Prairie Chicken as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. Listing the Lesser Prairie Chicken as "threatened" would place significant restrictions on activities on both public and private land. Neugebauer released the following statement for constituents who will be affected by the decision:
"I appreciate that Director Ashe took the time to meet with us to discuss our concerns about the proposal. But I am still very concerned that the Service is working under litigation-driven deadlines that don't allow for enough time to consider the complex science and stakeholder concerns.
"Listing this species would have a big effect on the West Texas economy, so it's important that the decision is made the right way, with adequate time for review. Extending the deadline is just plain common-sense.
"I'm confident that the tireless efforts being made by landowners, industry, and state wildlife experts will prove to be the most effective means to conserve the Lesser Prairie Chicken while respecting private property. I asked Director Ashe to continue to work as tirelessly as they are to make that happen, and I hope he ultimately concludes that the proposed listing is not warranted."
As a result of a lawsuit settlement with environmental groups, the Fish and Wildlife Service submitted the proposed rule in December and a final decision is currently set for September 30, 2013. The Service has indicated that it may not have enough time to consider all the state and local experts' proposals and information on the listing proposal. The Fish & Wildlife Service can extend the final deadline by six months if it finds there is uncertainty or disagreement over the science.
Neugebauer emphasized that sound science and conservation efforts already underway at the state and local level shouldn't be denied consideration just because the Service agreed to follow arbitrary deadlines.