The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's proposal to list the lesser prairie chicken as a “threatened” species is just one more example of a heavy-handed federal regulatory agency encroaching on state rights.
Yes, the “threatened” status is more lenient than an “endangered” status and eliminates more punitive and restrictive measures that would surely erode Oklahoma economic activity in the bird's habitat in northwestern Oklahoma, where land-intensive industries of agriculture and energy production reign.
But the listing also is an example of the flawed Endangered Species Act and ignores Oklahoma's $26 million investment in conservation efforts to protect the lesser prairie chicken, a bird that is still openly hunted just across our border in Kansas.
Signed into law in 1973, the Endangered Species Act was created with good intentions — to protect at-risk plants and animals from going the way of the passenger pigeon and the Dodo bird. Unfortunately, the federal program has become a platform for radical environmental groups bent on shutting down oil and natural gas exploration, agriculture and other industrial development.
Since its inception, more than 2,000 species have been listed as either threatened or endangered. The list covers species in every state and includes every kind of creature imaginable, even bugs, worms, plants, snakes, spiders, bogs, moss, mice, rats and other species. Of those 2,000 listed as threatened or endangered, only 27 have been delisted, a success rate of roughly 1 percent.
According to a Greenwire report citing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the average cost of listing a single species is $85,000 and the average cost of designating critical habitat is $515,000 per species. Thus, the approximate cost to the American taxpayer of listing the 2,058 species currently listed is $174,930,00; the approximate cost of designating critical habitat for those species is in excess of $1 billion.
The Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, in partnership with state conservation agencies and other business groups in Oklahoma, is working to form a voluntary conservation plan that will play a significant role in conserving lesser prairie chicken habitat.
Those efforts, borne from collaborative work between the state and private industry taking a balanced approach, will improve the lesser prairie chicken's habitat without depressing the economic development needs of the habitat area, including agriculture, oil and natural gas development and transportation.
Federal intrusion through the Endangered Species Act has a limited success rate. It's costly to American taxpayers and it's unnecessary. Oklahoma's environment should be and is being protected by Oklahomans, not the federal bureaucracy.
Terry is president of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association.