Lawmakers' letter urges against endangered listing for lesser prairie chicken

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe continues to try to persuade federal agency not to give endangered or threatened status to bird whose habitat lies in an area of wind power development.
by Chris Casteel Published: July 18, 2012
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Lawmakers from Oklahoma and other states continued their effort on Tuesday to dissuade the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the lesser prairie chicken as an endangered or threatened species.

In a letter to the agency's director, Dan M. Ashe, Sen. Jim Inhofe and several other lawmakers said officials in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico had taken steps to preserve the bird's habitat. In Oklahoma, that has included $42 million devoted to conservation efforts, along with management activities on more than 563,000 acres of habitat, the letter states.

Inhofe, R-Tulsa, has been pushing hard to keep the lesser prairie chicken off the endangered or threatened species list since the restrictions that would follow the federal listing could hamper wind power development and other activities in the bird's northwestern Oklahoma habitat.

A decision on whether to list the bird is expected in the next few months.

Oklahoma wildlife Director Richard Hatcher said in March that the bird faces a “dire” situation but that he was hoping the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would allow states to manage the species rather than list it.

In the letter, the lawmakers point to the recent decision by the agency not to list the Sand Dune Lizard as endangered after voluntary agreements with landowners in Texas and New Mexico were reached. Consideration of the lesser prairie chicken should be similar, the lawmakers said, because of the extensive efforts being taken in the states to protect the bird's habitat.

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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