The lesser prairie chicken has been placed on the threatened species list. The US Fish and Wildlife Service set the lesser prairie chicken threatened species rules to take effect around May 1. The threatened designation is one step below the more restrictive endangered species title. Government officials have told ranchers, farmers, and energy producers that the threatened designation actually allows increased “flexibility” on land use activities. As this private property rights battle plays out, a similar fight over public land usage and states’ rights ranged on in Clark County, Nevada.
The lesser prairie chicken, which weighs about two pounds, are believed to “fear tall structures.” Biologists who studied the species said that hawks and other predators typically perch on tall structures to spot their dinner. The population figures for the bird reportedly dropped by 50 percent since 2012. It is not believed that less than 18,000 prairie chickens exist in America.
The move by the Obama administration has farmers and ranchers worried – and energy producers and property rights activists. Some lawmakers and energy companies are vocally opposing the new lesser prairie chicken preservation status, deeming it government overreach.
The pending requirement is expected to affect wind farms as well as oil and gas drilling in Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Kansas, and New Mexico. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is just one of many elected officials in the affected states worried about how the lesser prairie chicken threatened species ruling will impact the economy. “This is an overreach on the part of the federal government. We are looking at possible responses on this issue,” Governor Brownback said. The Kansas lawmaker did not rule the filing of a lawsuit on the issue. Wind farms were among the beneficiaries of millions of taxpayer dollars in the 200 stimulus plan.
US Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe admitted that the lesser prairie chicken protective status will not be popular in the five state noted, but claims the federal agency based its decision on the best science available. Apparently the prairie chicken, a type of grouse, has lost approximately 80 percent of its “traditional” habitat primarily because of ranching, oil and gas drilling, wind turbines, and the construction of power lines.
Oil and gas industry representatives maintain that drilling has a lesser effect on prairie chickens than the government has determined. “Adding another layer of regulation on the oil and gas industry in a region that is key to America’s energy future and for which there is no clear environmental benefit runs counter to this administration’s stated approach to energy and regulation,” a statement from the American Petroleum Institute reads.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt recently filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over allegedly shading dealings with an environmental group and the threatened status designation for the lesser prairie chicken. Pruitt believes that federal agencies are colluding with like-minded special interest groups and utilizing a “sue and settle” plan to actually encourage lawsuits which can ultimately be settled in terms favorable to the groups which penned the legal action.
Kansas Representative Tim Huelskamp sad that the Obama administration is threatening both the property rights of farmers and ranchers as well as energy production in the five states where the lesser prairie chicken roams free. “An effective conservation effort must be strictly voluntary if private property is to be respected and our rural way of life to be protected,” Representative Huelskamp said.
Lawmakers from New Mexico are equally displeased with the new protective status of the bird. State officials have said that the threatened species status will “without question decimate economic development” and job creation in the southeastern region of New Mexico. The Defenders of Wildlife environmental groups feel the protective mandate was long overdue and corrects “overly broad exemptions” of land uses.
In addition to the property rights and economic concerns being voiced over the lesser prairie chicken threatened species status, some are also worried this could be one more step towards and Agenda 21 existence. Some key supporters of the so-called “regionalists” movement to push folks from rural areas into the city to bolster resources and curtail “excess” fuel consumption, promote the use of EPA and Fish and Wildlife restrictions on land use and denial of federal grants to accomplish the task.
Many who follow the potentially devastating decline of the honeybee population have asked why insects need to pollinate about 70 percent of our food supply are not being given the same generous protection as the lesser prairie chicken. Since 2005 the honeybee population has been is a drastic decline, yet no special protection order, or even a thorough study, has been ordered by the federal government. Colony Collapse Disorder has widely been blamed upon the use of chemical herbicides which contain neonicotinoids. Products such as Monsanto’s Roundup Ready, and GMO crops have infiltrated at least as much of the honeybee’s traditional habitat as oil rigs and ranches have with the lesser prairie chicken. A plethora of former Monsanto executives now hold key positions at the USDA, EPA, and FDA – making it extremely unlikely that GMO seeds and chemical herbicides will be looked upon as too intrusive and prompt survival measures being taken to protect the honeybee.
[Image Via: Oklahoma Farm Report]