ongressman Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) responded to a letter from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Daniel Ashe regarding the potential listing of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
"The Fish and Wildlife Service took a step in the right direction on the lesser prairie-chicken listing, but unfortunately, they didn't go far enough," Neugebauer stated.
Earlier this month, Neugebauer led his colleagues in an effort to get FWS to extend the public comment period on the proposed rule by at least 60 days, and extend the final listing deadline by at least 90 days.
Director Ashe agreed to re-open the comment period so stakeholders could review the widely supported conservation plan proposed by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA). However, he declined to extend the final listing deadline.
"Allowing stakeholders to comment on the range-wide conservation plan is critical, and I'm glad Director Ashe recognized this," Neugebauer said. "But I let him know that I was disappointed that he didn't choose to extend the final deadline for making a decision on whether or not to list the species. That creates a shortened review period that doesn't account for the complexity of this proposal. And it means the Service is still following arbitrary deadlines based on litigation, rather than examining what makes the most sense for local conservation efforts."
Listing the lesser prairie-chicken as threatened will have sweeping consequences for landowners in West Texas and neighboring states.
Neugebauer thanked residents of West Texas for their active involvement in this issue, and urged them to stay engaged. "Farmers, ranchers, landowners, and energy producers have all come together to take part in this process," Neugebauer stated. "Thanks to their efforts, we're making progress."