Delegation fights for Lesser Prairie Chicken

Sen. Jim Inhofe, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today sent a bipartisan, bicameral letter signed by the entire Oklahoma delegation to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar asking for clarification
regarding the Listing Priority Number (LPN) for the Lesser Prairie
Chicken (LPC). 

Signatories included Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Representatives James Lankford, (R-OK-5), John Sullivan (R-OK-1), Frank Lucas (R-OK-3), Tom Cole (R-OK-4), Dan Boren (D-OK-2), as well as eighteen other Senate and House members.

Specifically, these members requested that they be given the information the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) utilized in 2008 to change the LPN for the Lesser Prairie Chicken from an 8 to a 2, which is a dramatic change in a short amount of time.  As the letter states, “Considering the LPC’s ten years as a relatively low priority candidate species, it seems unusual that such a dramatic shift would occur. In our view, providing detailed information regarding this shift would facilitate better communication between the Service, states and local governments as well as other stakeholders.”

Senator Inhofe has led ongoing
efforts to promote private-public partnerships to increase the number of
Lesser Prairie-Chickens in Oklahoma.  These kinds of voluntary efforts
are proven to be more effective than an Endangered Species Act listing,
which has a low success rate in preserving species but a high success
rate in killing jobs and harming state economies.  In September 2011,
Director Ashe traveled to Edmond and Woodward, Oklahoma at the Senator’s request, where he heard directly from Oklahomans about the
devastating consequences of a listing for jobs and the economy. 

Sen. Inhofe said, “Given the devastating impacts a listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken will have on energy development, the construction of highway infrastructure, and agriculture, Oklahomans need to know exactly why the ranking of this species has changed so dramatically on the agency’s priority list over such a short period of time.  As Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, I will continue to pursue this issue until it is resolved.”  

Rep. Lankford added, “Priority listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken by the Department of Interior could have a dramatic impact on the progress of Western Oklahoma, adding tremendous burden on farmers, land owners, wind farms and all other economic development. The Department of Interior has an obligation to demonstrate the scientific evidence and the decision-making process that proves the need for such a rapid change in listing.  Before the onerous regulatory hand is imposed on Oklahoma, our state should have the opportunity to evaluate and respond to any Lesser Prairie Chicken population issues that are discovered through a state implementation plan, rather than through federal mandates.”  

Rep. Lucas said, “I fully appreciate the importance of conservation to Oklahoma, but I find concern with a possible listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC) on the Endangered Species List. As a leader in wind energy, oil, gas and agriculture production, a listing of the LPC would have detrimental effects on our state’s economy. This action would interfere with The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s ongoing efforts of creating a habitat management for the LPC, and I believe this federal action would create an additional layer of costs and bureaucracy at a time when we can ill-afford it.”  

Rep. Sullivan agreed saying “Here we go again – this is yet another potential regulatory burden from the Obama administration that could have far reaching consequences on Oklahoma’s vast energy and agriculture sectors.  I was proud to sign this letter to help bring transparency and request much needed clarification as to why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to change the status of the Lesser Prairie Chicken.”

Rep. Cole said, “The effort by the Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Lesser Prairie Chicken as an endangered species is an example of desired outcome trumping science.  Data on prairie chicken populations is not comprehensive, and it is dangerous for the Obama administration to move forward with an action that will put the livelihood of everyone in Western Oklahoma in jeopardy without thorough study and sound science.”