EDF and its allies, including energy companies, hope the plan would prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from putting the lesser prairie chicken on the endangered species list, which would restrict development by drillers, wind-energy companies, ranchers and the government. They also hope the FWS will follow the example of the dunes sagebrush lizard, which stayed off the list after companies, landowners and ranchers agreed to maintain its habitat. This "free-market" approach to habitat preservation could be an example to other areas.
The lesser prairie chicken has been on the endangered-species waiting list for more than a decade. Scientists say livestock grazing, tree encroachment, energy development and conversion of rangeland to cropland have reduced its habitat and population. "The EDF proposal reflects a broader shift toward the use of voluntary, state-led conservation agreements as the FWS faces court-ordered deadlines to issue listing decisions on scores of other candidate species," Taylor reports. (Read more)