“The unprecedented collaborative efforts of WAFWA and the five state wildlife agencies have produced a sound conservation plan for the lesser prairie-chicken,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “We applaud the states’ commitment to lead conservation actions across the bird’s range.”
The plan avoids listing the lesser prairie chicken as an endangered species. State officials, the oil and gas industry and others had opposed such a listing because they said the economic impacts would be too high. It hasn’t been just a New Mexico issue either — the range also extends to Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas.
Instead, the plan calls on voluntary conservation to help protect the species.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., praised the plan, while the Center for Biological Diversity slammed the plan as inadequate.
“This is very good news for the many private citizens, companies and public land management agencies who have worked together for years to find a collaborative solution to protecting the lesser prairie-chicken habitat. New Mexico landowners and industry need certainty, and with the FWS endorsement today, we are nearing a positive final decision,” Udall said in a statement on Tuesday.
“I agree with the FWS that the existing Range Wide Plan is a strong solution for the conservation of the Lesser Prairie Chicken,” said Pearce. “State governments, as well as local farmers, ranchers, and businesses, have gone to great lengths to take initiative in the conservation of this species, and their efforts should be lauded. Since we can all agree to the strength and effectiveness of the five-state Range Wide Plan, a listing under the Endangered Species Act is clearly an unnecessary measure that would have a detrimental impact on our local economies, and cut funding for education, emergency response, and other key programs our communities rely on.”
The environmental group the Center for Biological Diversity had a drastically different point of view.
“Drought and habitat destruction are devastating the small remaining populations of this magnificent grassland bird,” said the Center’s Jay Lininger. “Voluntary measures by states are too little, too late, and will not get traction fast enough to prevent extinction. These vanishing birds need the full protection of the Endangered Species Act without exemptions for activities that continue to destroy their habitat.”