Last week the Obama administration postponed the decision to list the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) until the end of November. The two-month extension from the original September 30 deadline removes the political pressure for the president until after the elections.
The Fish and Wildlife Service must issue a final listing decision over the next four years for the prairie chicken, along with more than 250 other candidate species as part of a listing work plan that developed out of a settlement agreement made with environmental groups last year.
Prairie chicken habitat in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas overlaps with farms, highways, and planned wind farms and oil and gas development. Oklahoma leaders fear that listing the prairie chicken would negatively affect the state’s economy. Oklahoma has invested millions of dollars in voluntary conservation efforts to increase prairie chicken populations; efforts that a group of 21 lawmakers (mostly Republican) argues have made federal protection under the ESA unwarranted.
Environmentalists expect the prairie chicken to be listed, especially after FWS concluded in 2008 that increased wind development and conversion of private land to crops constitute a significant threat to the species.
The listing work plan is mostly on schedule but FWS officials have warned that substantial new listing proposals are straining the agency’s resources.
Source: E&E News (Greenwire, September 27, 2012)