US wildlife managers propose protections for rare lesser prairie chicken

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This photo from Friday, May 2, 2014, shows a display of two stuffed lesser prairie chickens at the Kansas Statehouse, in Topeka, Kan. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — U.S. wildlife managers are proposing federal protections for the lesser prairie chicken.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday said it will consider public comments and scientific information over the coming months before making a final determination. Once listed as a threatened species, the chicken’s habitat spans parts of five states — including a portion of the oil-rich Permian Basin.

Environmentalists have been pushing to reinstate protections. Landowners and the oil and gas industry have been working on voluntary conservation programs. Still, federal officials say threats remain.

They are proposing to list the northern population as threatened and those in eastern New Mexico and the southern Texas Panhandle as endangered.

Senator Roger Marshall, M.D. and Senator Jerry Moran issued the following statement after President Biden’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced they are proposing to list the Lessor Prairie-chicken as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in the northern population segment that impacts Kansas. 

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s announcement is disappointing and a reminder that this Administration favors government overreach and heavy handed regulation over cooperation with those who have been working to protect the Lesser Prairie Chicken’s habitat and growing the bird’s population across the Midwest,” said Senator Marshall. “Instead of working with landowners to promote continued voluntary efforts the service is instead implementing a listing that limits Landowner autonomy and opportunity. Today’s announcement will hurt our state’s economy, hinder our oil and gas independence, increase utility costs, and prevent the development of renewable energy in prime Western Kansas locations.”

“The Biden administration’s proposal to list the lesser prairie-chicken under the Endangered Species Act threatens to harm farmers, ranchers, energy producers and rural communities. Kansas and surrounding states invested millions of public and private dollars in conservation efforts in the habitat area, resulting in the bird’s population more than doubling,” said Senator Moran. “The decision to propose a listing despite voluntary conservation efforts that continue to successfully restore habitat area removes any incentive for similar locally-driven efforts to occur for other species. This proposal will result in less wildlife conservation in the future, not more.”

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