U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) has received notification from Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe that a six-month extension will be granted for the final listing determination of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken as a "threatened species" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Earlier this week, Thornberry was joined by eight other Congressmen from Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, and Washington, including Rep. Randy Neugebauer and Rep. Mike Conaway, in a letter to Director Ashe requesting the six-month extension to March 30, 2014.
"This is a good result for all the local communities and landowners that are working hard to implement local solutions to protect the Prairie-Chicken. The efforts of the folks living and working on the affected lands have shown that we don't need Washington bureaucrats stepping in and making a decision based on bad science and backroom deals with environmental groups," Thornberry said. "I hope that with this extra time, the Fish and Wildlife Service will take a serious look at those efforts and make the right decision."
The original letter to Director Ashe requesting the extension cited "significant scientific disagreement" about the status of the species that must be analyzed and addressed. Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Wind Energy Association have pointed to such discrepancies in comments to the FWS on the Lesser Prairie-Chicken listing.
The FWS announced its plan to initiate the process to consider whether the Lesser Prairie-Chicken should be listed as "threatened" under the ESA on December 11, 2012, and the original final listing deadline was set for September 30, 2013. Since then, Thornberry's office has been working with local residents and businesses to encourage FWS officials to consider voluntary efforts to protect the Prairie-Chicken, which have proven effective with other species. Land owners, energy companies, and other businesses could face far reaching consequences if the bird is listed as a "threatened species."
The Lesser Prairie-Chicken can be found in Texas, as well as grasslands in Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Despite having faced record droughts over the last several years, the Prairie-Chicken population is on the rise or holding steady in some parts of the country. This fact has led many residents, lawmakers, and others to question the need for new federal regulation to "protect" the birds.