Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Fish and Wildlife Service takes lesser prairie chicken off endangered and threatened list

Current range in green; former in light green
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday removed the lesser prairie chicken from the federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife, following a court order, Todd Neeley reports for DTN The Progressive Farmer. The agency said in a statement: "This administrative action and the decision not to appeal the court’s ruling do not constitute a biological determination on whether or not the lesser prairie chicken warrants federal protection. The service is undertaking a thorough re-evaluation of the bird’s status and the threats it faces using the best available scientific information to determine anew whether listing under the ESA [Endangered Species Act] is warranted.” (USFWS map)

In June 2014, the Permian Basin Petroleum Association and several New Mexico counties "filed a lawsuit challenging the service’s 2014 listing," Neeley writes. "In September 2015, a court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and vacated the final listing rule, effectively ending ESA protections for the bird. The ruling also invalidated USFWS’s rule under section 4(d) of the ESA that tailored regulations governing take of the species to focus on activities that are threats to the species’ survival."

"Once abundant across much of the five range states of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado, the bird’s historical range of native grasslands and prairies has been reduced by an estimated 84 percent, according to USFWS," Neeley writes.

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