NCBA, along with KLA, the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association and Permian Basin Petroleum Association, has filed a notice of intent to sue the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) over the listing of the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act. This is the first step in court toward overturning the listing and revoking FWS’s final rule for both the northern and southern distinct population segments (DPS).
“The lesser prairie chicken only survives today because of the voluntary conservation efforts of ranchers,” said NCBA Associate Director of Government Affairs Sigrid Johannes. “Science has proven repeatedly that healthy, diverse rangelands, like those cultivated by livestock grazing, are where the lesser prairie chicken thrives. There are numerous places where this listing goes seriously wrong and we are defending cattle producers against this overreaching, unscientific rule.”
The listing was previously set to take effect at the end of January, but due to pressure on the Biden administration from NCBA and its allies in Congress, the rule was delayed by 60 days. The listing now will take effect March 27, 2023. The states included in the species’ range are Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Colorado.
The lawsuit follows a letter submitted by NCBA to the secretary of the interior and FWS director requesting a delay of the effective date and flagging particular concerns with the 4(d) rule for the northern DPS, which includes Kansas. By permitting third parties to act as grazing authorities with the power to review and approve management plans within this segment, FWS has opened the door to activist groups having oversight of cattle grazing. However, under the rule, without these third-party-approved grazing management plans, cattle producers operating inside the species’ range will be subject to a punitive degree of civil and criminal penalties for incidental take of the bird.