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Lesser Prairie Chicken to be Listed as Threatened


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A Lesser Prairie Chicken displays near Milnesand, New Mexico. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently listed the species as threatened — 19 years after first receiving a petition to list the species. (Credit: Nick Richter/Flickr)

A Lesser Prairie Chicken displays near Milnesand, New Mexico. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently listed the species as threatened — 19 years after first receiving a petition to list the species. (Credit: Nick Richter/Flickr)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently released a final rule to list the Lesser Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The decision comes 19 years after the agency first received a petition by the Biodiversity Legal Foundation to list the species under the ESA.

This recent listing would cover the prairie chicken’s entire range, which reaches across parts of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado. The prairie chicken’s grassland habitat has decreased by 84 percent from its historic size and the population itself has declined precipitously from 34,440 in 2012 to only 17,616 individuals today. Severe drought has been a significant contributor to the decline in population in recent years, but ongoing threats such as habitat loss from grazing, tree encroachment, agricultural development, and energy projects have contributed as well. FWS stated that critical habitat is “not determinable” at this time, but will be explored at a later date.

A Special Rule under Section 4(d) of the ESA was released concurrently with the final decision. Under the 4(d) rule, oil and gas companies, farmers, ranchers, and other landowners who are enrolled in one of the FWS approved voluntary conservation plans, such as the Range-wide Oil and Gas Industry Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, would not be subject to additional regulatory burdens beyond what those plans already outline.

Industry groups expressed dismay that the prairie chicken was listed despite what they termed an “impressive” effort on their part to enroll in voluntary conservation plans and undertake mitigation efforts. On the contrary, some environmental groups voiced concerns that a threatened listing allows too much regulatory leeway, and mitigation options utilized by industry have not been proven to be effective.

Sources: FWS (accessed March, 2014), Energy & Environment News (March 27, 2014), Energy & Environment News (March 28, 2014), FWS final rule (accessed March, 2014), FWS final 4(d) rule (accessed March, 2014)



This article was automatically imported from The Wildlife Society's policy news feed.

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