Lawmakers Urge Fish and Wildlife Service to Approve Innovative Conservation Agreement for Lesser Prairie Chicken Habitat

WASHINGTON, DC—Congressman Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) joined five western lawmakers on a letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) Director Dan Ashe urging a quick approval of conservation efforts to preserve the Lesser Prairie Chicken, and a two month delay of the scheduled listing decision. 

“This is part of our effort to ensure the FWS doesn’t move forward with a costly listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken when innovative state and regional efforts would make the listing unnecessary,” Neugebauer explained. 

“Within months of FWS approval of the Lesser Prairie Chicken Range-Wide Conservation Plan, there are now 4.8 million acres of existing or pending enrollment in conservation plans across the Lesser Prairie Chicken Range.  That’s roughly the size of Delaware and Connecticut combined,” Neugebauer said. 

“We wrote this letter to urge FWS to finalize the accompanying oil and gas Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) for this agreement,” Neugebauer explained.  “Instead of stalling with never-ending reviews, FWS could finalize this agreement and incentivize additional conservation efforts.  If their goal is to protect this species, why not encourage action under a plan that it has already endorsed?” 

In the letter, the lawmakers also pressed FWS to extend its final listing decision until June 11, 2014, to allow more acreage to be enrolled in the range-wide plan.  “With the clear and growing success of these conservation plans, we urge USFWS to allow sufficient time for this unprecedented, range-wide conservation effort to succeed, by immediately finalizing the oil and gas CCAA and extending the decision deadline,” the letter reads. 

Neugebauer said that he is confident that given the opportunity to fully implement the range-wide plan, states will prove that listing the lesser prairie chicken is not necessary. 

The full text of the letter is available here.  Other signatories included Reps. Steve Pearce (R-NM), Mike Conaway (R-TX), Corey Gardner (R-CO), Mac Thornberry (R-TX), and Frank Lucas (R-OK).