U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), today voiced his frustration with the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for denying a bipartisan request to amend a Settlement Agreement with environmental groups governing the process of determining whether to list the Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
"I am disappointed and frustrated that the Service is not providing Oklahoma with the maximum amount of time allowed under the law to demonstrate that a listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken is unwarranted," said Inhofe. "While it is appropriate for the Service to grant a six month extension to evaluate discrepancies in the science, it is inexcusable that the Service is not also willing to ask the courts to amend the Settlement Agreement, which it has done before, to ensure that all time allowed under federal law is provided for the LPC's consideration. The Service should be doing all it can under the law to ensure that the voluntary, state-driven conservation plan is approved so that states are allowed to effectively conserve the LPC."
In 2011, the Service entered into a consent decree Settlement Agreement with the WildEarth Guardians environmental group and committed to deciding the fate of the LPC by March 30, 2014. The Service, however, was unable to maintain the timeline stipulated by the agreement and did not propose a threatened listing until December 11, 2012, which was ten weeks late. Under the ESA, the Service should be allowed to delay a final decision of the LPC until June 11, 2014. In a June 13, 2013, bipartisan letter led by Sen. Inhofe, all Senators from the five states that would be affected by a listing requested that the Service seek an amendment to the Settlement Agreement to provide this additional time. In a June 26, 2013 letter back to the Senators, Director Ashe denied their request to seek the Settlement Agreement amendment. Until the Service obtains this amendment, the affected states and stakeholders will be at a disadvantage in their fight to demonstrate that an LPC listing is not warranted.
On February 20th, Sen. Inhofe sent a letter to Director Ashe requesting an extension to the comment period for the proposed threatened listing of the LPC.
On February 27th, Director Ashe agreed to provide the extension of the comment period.
On May 21st, Inhofe offered an amendment to the Senate Farm Bill (S. Amdt. 958) that would have provided an 18-month statutory delay of any decision related to the LPC.
On June 19, 2013, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment offered by Steve Pearce (R-NM) to the House Farm Bill ordering a study by USDA of the cost effectiveness of various conservation plans, including the RWP.