Kansas Sens. say listing of Lesser Prairie-Chicken a blow to local conservation efforts

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 2:13 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A proposal has been made by the USFWS to list the lesser prairie-chicken as a threatened and endangered species and Kansas Senators say the move is a blow to state and locally-driven conservation efforts.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to list two population segments of the lesser prairie-chicken as endangered and threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and Senators Jerry Moran and Roger Marshall say the move hampers state and locally-driven efforts to conserve the bird and its habitat without overreaching on landowners’ autonomy.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s announcement is disappointing and a reminder that this Administration favors government overreach and heavy-handed regulation over cooperation with those who have been working to protect the lesser prairie-chicken’s habitat and growing the bird’s population across the Midwest,” said Senator Marshall. “Instead of working with landowners to promote continued voluntary efforts, the service is instead implementing a listing that limits Landowner autonomy and opportunity. Today’s announcement will hurt our state’s economy, hinder our oil and gas independence, increase utility costs, and prevent the development of renewable energy in prime Western Kansas locations.”

Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) said the listing follows a letter he sent to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Halland, urging her to not list the bird. He said the Service is looking at an exception that would allow for routine agricultural practices and prescribed burns to continue in the state.

“The Biden administration’s proposal to list the lesser prairie-chicken under the Endangered Species Act threatens to harm farmers, ranchers, energy producers and rural communities,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). “Kansas and surrounding states invested millions of public and private dollars in conservation efforts in the habitat area, resulting in the bird’s population more than doubling. The decision to propose a listing despite voluntary conservation efforts that continue to successfully restore habitat areas removes any incentive for similar locally-driven efforts to occur for other species. This proposal will result in less wildlife conservation in the future, not more.”

According to Sen. Marshall, the lesser prairie-chicken became a candidate for listing under the ESA in 1998 and was listed as threatened in 2014. He said the listing was then vacated in 2014 after a lawsuit, however, in September of 2016, the Service got a new petition to list the lesser prairie-chicken as endangered and in November of 2016 made a 90-day petition that found listing may be needed.

Sen. Marshall said Wednesday’s announcement follows a year-long finding by the USFWS.

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