JUDGE THROWS OUT LESSER PRAIRIE CHICKEN LISTING
A federal judge in west Texas has overturned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) decision to list the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species. Judge Robert Junell of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas sided with arguments by plaintiffs, the Permian Basin Petroleum Association and four New Mexico counties, in vacating the listing. The court held that USFWS failed to follow its own rule for evaluating conservation efforts in making the listing decision. Five states, including Kansas, established a rangewide conservation plan to prevent the listing under the Endangered Species Act. The USFWS has 30 days to decide whether or not to appeal the district court opinion.
The lesser prairie chicken is commonly found in western Kansas. Many suggested serious drought in the lesser prairie chicken’s range was the principal cause for the population decline in recent years. Lesser prairie chicken numbers are on the rise, according to survey results released earlier this summer by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Based on aerial surveys, biologists estimated lesser prairie chicken numbers at about 29,000, a 25% increase from 2014.
Kansas officials also have fought the USFWS listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species. A separate lawsuit to vacate the listing was instituted by attorneys general in the region, including Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt. In addition, amendments to annual congressional spending bills were successfully introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran and in the House by U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder.
NCBA is aggressively working to nullify the Waters of the U.S. Rule. KLA Communications Program Manager Scarlett Hagins says this was a main topic of discussion during the August 20 KLA/K-State Ranch Management Field Day.