Bipartisan, Bicameral Concern about FWS Listing Priority for Lesser Prairie Chicken
February 21, 2012

Contact:

Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-9797

Katie Brown Katie_Brown@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-2160            

Bipartisan, Bicameral Concern about FWS Listing Priority for Lesser Prairie Chicken

Link to Letter

Washington, D.C. - Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today led a bipartisan, bicameral letter signed by twenty-four Senate and House members - including the entire Oklahoma delegation - to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar asking for clarification regarding the Listing Priority Number (LPN) for the Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC).

Specifically, these members requested that they be given the information the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) utilized in 2008 to change the LPN for the Lesser Prairie Chicken from an 8 to a 2, which is a remarkable change in a short amount of time.  As the letter states, "Considering the LPC's ten years as a relatively low priority candidate species, it seems unusual that such a dramatic shift would occur. In our view, providing detailed information regarding this shift would facilitate better communication between the Service, states and local governments as well as other stakeholders."

Senator Inhofe: "Given the devastating impacts a listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken will have on energy development, the construction of highway infrastructure, and agriculture, Oklahomans need to know exactly why the ranking of this species has changed so dramatically on the agency's priority list over such a short period of time.  As Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, I will continue to pursue this issue until it is resolved." 

Senator Hutchison: "The economic livelihood of West Texas demands that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pursue an open and responsible process in assessing whether the Lesser Prairie Chicken is given an endangered or threatened designation."

Senator Roberts: "This change could have severe negative implications on economic development on private landowners in Kansas. The administration owes Kansans more explanation as to why the Lesser Prairie-Chicken listing could change so drastically, before decisions are made that could have such tremendous impact."

Rep. Lankford: "Priority listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken by the Department of Interior could have a dramatic impact on the progress of Western Oklahoma, adding tremendous burden on farmers, land owners, wind farms and all other economic development. The Department of Interior has an obligation to demonstrate the scientific evidence and the decision-making process that proves the need for such a rapid change in listing.  Before the onerous regulatory hand is imposed on Oklahoma, our state should have the opportunity to evaluate and respond to any Lesser Prairie Chicken population issues that are discovered through a state implementation plan, rather than through federal mandates." 

Rep. Lucas: "I fully appreciate the importance of conservation to Oklahoma, but I find concern with a possible listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC) on the Endangered Species List. As a leader in wind energy, oil, gas and agriculture production, a listing of the LPC would have detrimental effects on our state's economy. This action would interfere with The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's ongoing efforts of creating a habitat management for the LPC, and I believe this federal action would create an additional layer of costs and bureaucracy at a time when we can ill-afford it." 

The Oklahoma delegation signing on to the letter includes Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Representatives James Lankford, (R-OK), John Sullivan (R-OK), Frank Lucas (R-OK), Tom Cole (R-OK), and Dan Boren (D-OK). Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Pat Roberts (R-KS), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) as well as Representatives Stevan Pearce (R-NM), Michael Conaway (R-TX), Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Francisco "Quico" Canseco (R-TX), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Lamar Smith (R-TX), and Bill Flores (R-TX) also signed the letter.

Background:

Today's letter is part of Senator Inhofe's ongoing efforts to promote private-public partnerships to increase the number of Lesser Prairie Chickens in Oklahoma.  These kinds of voluntary efforts are proven to be more effective than an Endangered Species Act listing, which has a low success rate in preserving species but a high success rate in killing jobs and harming state economies.  In September 2011, Director Ashe travelled to Edmond and Woodward, Oklahoma at Senator Inhofe's request, where he heard directly from Oklahomans about the devastating consequences of a listing for jobs and the economy. 

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