Members of Congress Request More Time for Public Input on Lesser Prairie Chicken

Jun 24, 2013 Issues: Agriculture, Endangered Species Act Reform, Happening in West Texas, Energy, Regulations

WASHINGTON, DC—Eight Members of Congress joined Congressman Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) on a letter to Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe, requesting additional time for public input on listing the Lesser Prairie Chicken as a “threatened species” under the Endangered Species Act.

“We are writing to request a six-month extension to the final listing deadline currently set for September 20, 2013,” the Congressmen wrote. “In addition to this extension, we believe that the final deadline should be set for June 11, 2014 to ensure consistency with Endangered Species Act (ESA) procedural deadlines.”

Listing the Lesser Prairie Chicken as threatened could have massive consequences for landowners in the five states that are home to the bird’s habitat.  The requested extension would give these stakeholders additional time to implement voluntary conservation efforts, potentially making a listing unnecessary. 

Moreover, much of the science analyzing the status of the species is in dispute, and the ESA explicitly allows FWS to extend the deadline to account for such discrepancies.  Director Ashe should take time for a thorough analysis of this proposal before making a final decision.  

The full text of the letter is available here

Congressman Randy Neugebauer (TX-19):

“This is a commonsense request that gives the Fish and Wildlife Services the time they need to fully review comments from the landowners whose livelihoods are at stake.  Given the scientific discrepancies that have been uncovered, it’s clear that we shouldn’t rush this process and ignore critical information.  Voluntary conservation efforts by West Texans and our neighbors have been shown to work.  Let’s give them a chance to implement these solutions before we impose strict regulations.” 

Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04):

“Listing the Lesser Prairie Chicken under the ESA could potentially cause devastating job and economic impacts to portions of five states. It is only common sense for the Administration to allow more time for public comment and deference to these states’ efforts to manage the species to avoid a listing. Decisions of this magnitude need to be based on science and data rather than on arbitrary deadlines resulting from closed-door settlements with litigious environmental groups.”

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (OK-03):

“I continue to find concern with a possible listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC) on the Endangered Species List.  While I understand the importance of Oklahoma’s conservation efforts, I believe it is necessary that the Fish and Wildlife Service takes all factors into consideration before listing the LPC. This is why I am supporting a 6-month delay on any decision that would be made in regard to a proposed listing. The State of Oklahoma is a leader in wind, energy, oil, gas and agricultural production, and it is important that we do not put our economy at stake by making a decision on anything less than a complete and scientifically valid evaluation of all available information.”

Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Steve Pearce (NM-02):

“History has taught us that hasty listing decisions can needlessly cost thousands of jobs, destroy communities, and even have a detrimental impact on the environment and the species itself.  I urge the Fish and Wildlife Service to extend the comment period so that they may carefully consider all the facts in their decision.  Communities across New Mexico and the West are at stake—we stand to lose jobs and vital funding for education, first responders, and other vital programs.  It is essential that Americans have the opportunity to make their voices heard in the decisions that will affect their lives.”

Congressman Mike Conaway (TX-11):

“I believe there are no better stewards of our nation’s natural resources than those who work and depend on the land, and Texas farmers and landowners are rightly concerned about the proposed rule’s impact on their land and their livelihoods. The decision on whether the lesser prairie chicken should be listed as threatened is a complicated one, and such a listing could have a drastic impact on landowners and producers. I urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to extend the final listing deadline an additional six months to allow more input from the public.”

Congressman Mac Thornberry (TX-13):

“There is scientific and legal value in the Fish and Wildlife Service granting this extension.  Our local governments along with landowners and private organizations are working toward real solutions that will protect the Lesser Prairie-Chicken and private land rights. It’s a clear win-win for everyone involved when a volunteer effort in the affected areas can fix the problem without Washington stepping in.”

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