Matt Dempsey (202) 224-9797

Katie Brown (202) 224-2160                  

New FWS Director Coming to Oklahoma to Discuss Lesser Prairie Chicken

Washington, D.C.-Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today welcomed the Senate confirmation of Dan Ashe to serve as the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

Due to concerns over the potential listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the role of the FWS with regard to climate policy, Senator Inhofe voted against Ashe's nomination in the EPW Committee and expressed a desire to follow up with him on these issues. After meeting with Dan Ashe and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Senator Inhofe was satisfied that his concerns were addressed and he decided not to hold up Ashe's nomination. The details of the agreement between Senator Inhofe and Dan Ashe are contained in a letter dated May 17, 2011, in which Ashe pledged to hold meetings with stakeholders in Oklahoma to discuss the problems surrounding the potential ESA listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken.

"Throughout the nomination process, Dan proved himself by his willingness to work with me and a number of Senators who had significant concerns about his nomination," Senator Inhofe said. "I congratulate Dan on his confirmation and look forward to working with him in his new role.

"During the nomination process, I was pleased to secure a commitment from Ashe to hold listening sessions in Oklahoma to address the problems surrounding the potential listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken.  Many Oklahomans are concerned that the federal government is harming economic development in favor of creating a habitat for the species, even though it is hunted in neighboring Kansas.   He also pledged to make all of the listing-decision information on the Lesser Prairie Chicken subject to FOIA requests available online. This will increase transparency and minimize unnecessary litigation.

"I hope that in these listening sessions we can move away from the concept of restricting the rights of private property owners and instead implement voluntary partnerships such as Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances.  These public-private partnerships are the best way to achieve progress in conservation efforts while sustaining economic growth."