FWS Director Commits to Give Oklahoma Flexibility in Lesser Prairie Chicken Listing Decision
April 24, 2012

Contact:

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

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

FWS Director Commits to Give Oklahoma Flexibility in Lesser Prairie Chicken Listing Decision

Also Endorses Inhofe Bipartisan Conservation Bill as "Landmark Legislation"

Inhofe and FWS Director Ashe Discuss Prairie Chicken and NAWCA Bill

Link to Opening Statement

Link to Inhofe NAWCA Bill  

Washington, D.C. - Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, was pleased to welcome Fish and Wildlife (FWS) Director Dan Ashe today as he testified before the Environment and Public Works Committee.  Senator Inhofe thanked Director Ashe for his assurance today that the FWS will give Oklahomans as much flexibilty as possible when it comes to the listing decision for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken, and for his strong support of S. 2282, the North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act (NAWCA), which Senator Inhofe is sponsoring along with Senators Boxer and Vitter.  Director Ashe thanked Senator Inhofe for his leadership on this bill, saying "NAWCA has become an absolute foundation of our ability to conserve water fowl resources in the United States and it provides a bridge between Canada and the United States and Mexico, coordinates response amongst all the agencies within the three governments." 

"It was a great pleasure to welcome Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe to the Environment and Public Works Committee today," Senator Inhofe said.  "I would particularly like to thank Director Ashe for his assurance that the Fish and Wildlife Service 'will provide as much flexibility as [they] can' for Oklahomans as FWS goes forward with a listing decision for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken.  I appreciate that Director Ashe took the time to travel to Oklahoma last year to listen to the concerns of people in my state about the potential listing.  Oklahomans were able to tell him about how this listing would negatively affect agriculture, the construction of highway infrastructure, and energy development, especially wind development projects in the Woodward area.  However, Director Ashe also heard about the important voluntary efforts underway in the state to increase the number of Lesser Prairie-Chickens.  I am pleased that Director Ashe sees Oklahoma as a 'leader' in these efforts and his promise today that FWS will be as flexible as possible as Oklahomans continue this important work is most welcome.

"I was also very appreciative of Director Ashe's strong support of the bill I am sponsoring with Senators Boxer and Vitter, the North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act (NAWCA).  As Director Ashe said, NAWCA has become a 'tremendous success story' and that the 'key to NAWCA's accomplishments is that it fosters cooperative efforts' through public and private partnerships.   That is the spirit that drives our efforts in Oklahoma, and I am fully confident that Oklahomans can achieve the same success in preserving the Lesser Prairie-Chicken."

Transcript of Video

Sen. Inhofe: Thank you Mr. chairman and Director Ashe, I really do appreciate coming out and talking to our constituents and also your recognition of what happened in Woodward, Oklahoma.  It is just a tragic, I knew one of persons who had died in that tornado. So I'll pass that on your concern and condolences at the same time.  This issue is really important to the people of Oklahoma along with the people of the other four states and making a very significant push to ensure the long-term viability of the species.  I know the proposed listing deadline is coming up in September and settlement agreements allow the service to grant a six-month extension so biologists can continue examining the species.  I don't want to ask you for a commitment, I just ask if you would be as flexible as possible to work with my office and other stakeholders to allow time for these efforts to demonstrate what they are able to do?

Hon. Daniel Ashe: We will work with you, Senator.  The law does provide us with some flexibility to take into account new information in the state of OK, as you know has been a leader.  I met last week again with Secretary Sherrer and the state is really producing a great plan for conservation for the lesser prairie chicken and is leading the other four states within the range of the species.  We look forward to working with the state of Oklahoma and the other range states and we will provide as much flexibility as we possibly can.

Sen. Inhofe: That's great, I appreciate that, that's all I can ask.  Could you just make some comments about the reauthorization of NAWCA and more specifically why it is important to have a voluntary program like that that incentivizes the state and private funding, your comments about the NAWCA?

Hon. Daniel Ashe: Sure, and I want to being with thanking you for your leadership in introducing that legislation.  The NAWCA has become an absolute foundation of our ability to conserve water fowl resources in the United States and it provides a bridge between Canada and the United States and Mexico, coordinates response amongst all the agencies within the three governments.  In the U.S. it is Interior, Agriculture, Department of Defense, we have partners like the Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, Trust for Public Lands, all of our state agencies are partners in that process and so the NAWCA has really become a singular success leveraging public dollars two and three and four to one.   At the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission meeting last month, they presented a slate of projects that were matched with three private dollars for every federal dollar so just a tremendous success story and needs to be reauthorized so we can continue that record.

Sen. Inhofe: I appreciate that very much.

Highlights from Director Ashe's Testimony

The Success of Voluntary Efforts

Over the past 22 years we have witnessed remarkable achievements in conservation through this landmark legislation. Partnerships applying NAWCA funds to wetland conservation projects include nationally recognized conservation organizations, State fish and wildlife agencies, local governments, grass-roots organizations, and private landowners. They have supported thousands of cooperative projects across North America, leveraging billions of partner dollars and affecting more than 27 million acres of bird habitats.

The key to NAWCA's accomplishments is that it fosters cooperative efforts. Project proposals are developed through local partnerships, basing their objectives on the bird conservation goals and information created on a continental scale, through the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and the other continental bird plans, and using the best science available. These proposals are recommended by a Council of partners, and they are also shared with the Joint Ventures. The Joint Ventures review the proposals based on how well they reflect the habitat goals of the Joint Ventures in the geographic regions in which they occur.

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