Three environmental groups Tuesday sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, claiming the government did not go far enough this spring when it designated the lesser prairie chicken as “threatened” rather than “endangered.”
The action comes less than two weeks after several oil and natural gas industry groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, claiming the designation is too strong.
Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians filed their lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, saying the government “failed to adequately protect” the bird that is native to much of western Oklahoma. The environmental groups say they are concerned that the “threatened” distinction allows the agency to issue incidental take permits under what the environmental groups called “a series of unproven, voluntary conservation agreements.”
“Habitat destruction and drought are continuing to devastate the small remaining population of this magnificent grassland bird,” said Jay Lininger, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “These unenforceable pro-industry agreements fail to ensure the level of protection required by the Endangered Species Act to avert extinction.”
The lesser prairie chicken was listed as threatened on March 27. Authorities said the ruling minimized restrictions on energy production, agriculture and other activity in states where the bird has its habitat.