Bureau of Land Management Plan for Imperiled Prairie-Chicken and Sand Dune Lizard Falls Short
"We fear this is recipe for extinction dressed up as a conservation plan," noted Lauren McCain
WildEarth Guardians today criticized the Bureau of Land Management’s new plan for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken and Sand Dune Lizard, contending that it will do more harm to these species than good. The Bureau of Land Management released its Final Environmental Impact Statement for a Resource Management Plan Amendment that was supposed to provide greater protections for these at-risk species. The Plan came out of the BLM’s Roswell field office and covers land in Chaves, Eddy, Lea, and Roosevelt Counties in southeastern New Mexico. The Lesser Prairie-Chicken and Sand Dune Lizard are both candidates for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Recent evidence shows that the prairie-chicken has suffered serious declines in parts of its five-state range. The lizard is so endangered that scientists fear its extinction cannot be prevented. The Plan also fails to protect other special status wildlife.
“We fear this is recipe for extinction dressed up as a conservation plan,” noted Lauren McCain, WildEarth Guardians’ Deserts and Grasslands Program Director. “The plan allows the most significant threats to Lesser Prairie-Chickens and Sand Dune Lizards in major portions of these animals’ rapidly disappearing habitat.”
The Bureau’s plan continues to allow oil and gas development, off-highway vehicle use, toxic herbicide application, and livestock grazing. The few restrictions imposed by the Plan are woefully inadequate to protect the prairie-chicken and lizard.
For example, the Bureau of Land Management’s plan opens over 800,000 acres to new oil and gas leasing-over 70% of existing Lesser Prairie-Chicken and Sand Dune Lizard habitat in the four-county plan area. The Bureau will allow oil and gas development on close to 5,000 acres where these animals are known to exist. Though the Bureau issues stipulations to mitigate impacts from oil and gas development on special statues species, these are often waived at the request of operators. The Bureau of Land Management has waived around 500 stipulations designed to protect Lesser Prairie-Chickens and Sand Dune Lizards just in the last few years.
Instead of preventing and minimizing known threats to wildlife, the Plan relies on promises of reclamation as a basis for minimizing the environmental impact of the proposed action. However, reclamation is very difficult in arid and semi-arid lands, such as those existing in the Plan area. In addition, the BLM’s track record on enforcing wellpad, pipeline, road, and other reclamation has been marginal.
“The Bureau of Land Management’s new plan to ‘conserve’ these animals reveals that the only way to protect the Lesser Prairie-Chicken and Sand Dune Lizard is for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to step in and list them under the Endangered Species Act,” added McCain.
The Sand Dune Lizard is teetering on the brink of extinction. Scientists are concerned it may never recover. In New Mexico, the animal’s range includes small parts of Chaves, Eddy, Lea, and Roosevelt Counties within shinnery oak habitat that is shrinking due to continued human threats.
The Lesser Prairie-Chicken has experienced dramatic population declines in major areas of its small range in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado. The populations in Colorado and Kansas-historic strongholds for the prairie-chicken-dropped by 50% just in the last year.
The Bureau’s Resource Management Plan Amendment fails to protect other species statues species as well, including the Black-tailed Prairie Dog, Swift Fox, Mountain Plover, Burrowing Owl, Bell’s Vireo, Gray Vireo, Ferruginous Hawk, Loggerhead Shrike, Texas Horned Lizard, Northern Aplomado Falcon, and Bald Eagle.View the BLM plan