Friday, March 28, 2014

Feds designate lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species; 5 states criticize move

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday "designated the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species, a long-anticipated announcement that politicians warned could set off a possible battle over states’ rights," Lindsay Wise reports for McClatchy Newspapers. The species, which shrunk 50 percent from 2012 to 2013 to a record-low 17,616 birds, primarily lives in Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado. Drought, construction of wind turbines, and oil and gas drilling have been blamed for the shrinking population. (McClatchy photo by Michael Pearce)

"The move prompted anxiety among landowners and threats of defiance from politicians in the bird’s five-state habitat," Wise writes. "They worry the listing could wreck havoc with the area’s economy by limiting land use and raising regulatory costs."

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Anticipating the move, Kansas lawmakers already have a bill pending that "would prevent the federal government from protecting the lesser prairie chicken in the state by declaring any federal law related to the bird null and void," Wise writes. "The bill, which passed the state Senate 30-10 on Feb. 12, makes it a felony for any federal employee to enforce the bird’s threatened status."

"In a gesture that agency officials described as unprecedented, the bird’s threatened status will coincide with implementation of a special rule that will enable all five states to continue to manage conservation efforts for the lesser prairie chicken and avoid further regulation of activities such as oil and gas development, utility line maintenance and 'normal agricultural practices on existing cultivated land.'” Wise writes. (Read more)

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