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Feds Propose Blank Check for Lesser Prairie Chicken Habitat Destruction

Proposed for Threatened Species status, feds punt protections to unenforceable state plans

LARAMIE, Wyo. – The federal government today issued an amendment to its proposal to list the lesser prairie chicken as threatened under the Endangered Species Act that would exempt most activities causing prairie chicken declines across their five-state range. This newly proposed “4-d” rule is deeply flawed and could undermine the conservation value of listing the imperiled species.

“In 1905, a single market hunter shipped more than 20,000 lesser prairie chickens out of one county in Texas, Wheeler County. As of 2012, fewer than 17,616 lesser prairie chickens are left in the entire world,” said Erik Molvar, Wildlife Biologist with WildEarth Guardians. “Clearly, the lesser prairie chicken is in imminent danger of extinction, and that fact requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect it with Endangered, not merely Threatened, status.”

WildEarth Guardians also criticized the proposed 4(d) rule, which would prevent Endangered Species Act requirements from applying to oil and gas development, agriculture, wind farms, and industrial projects that currently threaten the bird with extinction.

“Oil and gas drilling and converting native grassland to crop fields are the biggest reasons that the lesser prairie chicken is teetering on the brink of extinction today, and the proposed rule would prevent strong regulations for these industries,” added Molvar. “Punting federal wildlife protections to an unenforceable state planning effort amounts to a blank check for habitat destruction for the lesser prairie chicken. The five-state plan is completely unenforceable, especially in Texas where local governments argue that the Texas constitution prevents the monitoring needed to ensure that conservation measures are actually being applied.”

The lesser prairie chicken population declined from 34,430 across its five-state range in 2011 to 17,616 in 2012 according to a study by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.


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