WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, released the following statement today praising the final step to delist the Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC) has been made by publishing the final rule in the federal register:
“I am pleased the day has come for the Lesser Prairie Chicken to be officially delisted. The agency’s original listing was rushed and failed to properly take into consideration the facts on the ground.”
“Because of the hard work of industry, stakeholders and local leaders, like ODWC Director Richard Hatcher, the states’ conservation plan exceeds the expectations of U.S. Fish and Wildlife, committing more than 9 million acres and $43 million to conservation projects. As the court ruled, there clearly was no need for the federal government to interfere.” Sen. Inhofe said.
“I am glad that the court agreed with me and the 9 Senators, representing all five states, who told FWS in 2013 that the states’ conservation plan should have time to be implemented before a listing can be properly assessed. That time has come, and I expect the states’ plan will prove successful in addressing the LPC population while also supporting the unique economic needs of each state and their communities,” Sen. Inhofe added.
During Inhofe’s tenure on the EPW Committee, he has worked to avoid a listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), working closely with FWS Director Dan Ashe to advance public-private partnerships to conserve the species.
On March 24, 2014, Inhofe sent a letter to Ashe ahead of the listing deadline reiterating the hard work that Oklahoma and four other states together with FWS have done to successfully establish a voluntary range-wide conservation plan (FWP) and Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAAs). On March 27, 2014, the LPC was listed as “threatened,” and while better than an endangered listing, Inhofe called the decision “purely political” in nature. That summer, Inhofe introduced the Lesser Prairie Chicken Voluntary Recovery Act, S.2677, which would remove the LPC from the list of threatened species under ESA for a period of five years to allow the state-driven conservation plans to take effect.
In the 114th Congress, Inhofe worked with Congressman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) to include language in the House National Defense Authorization Act to effectively remove the LPC from being listed.
On June 13, 2013, Inhofe was the lead on a bipartisan letter requesting a six-month delay to the LPC listing decision in order to provide the maximum amount of time to consider the LPC listing allowed under federal law. This resulted in an extension that allowed time for an evaluation of the science behind the listing decision and for the five-state plan to demonstrate results. This letter was in follow-up to a letter on Feb. 20, 2013, requesting an extension to the comment period for the proposed threatened listing, which Ashe agreed to provide within a week of the request.
During this time, Inhofe offered an amendment on May 21, 2013, to the Senate Farm Bill (S. Amdt. 958) that would provide an 18-month statutory delay of any decision related to the LPC. The amendment was not permitted a vote.
On June 19, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted an amendment offered by Congressman Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) to the House Farm Bill ordering a study by United States Department of Agriculture of the cost effectiveness of various conservation plans, including the Range Wide Plan (RWP) submitted by the five states. The amendment was included in the final language of the Farm Bill which was signed into law on Feb. 7, 2014.
In February 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service held a public hearing in Woodward, Okla. concerning the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. Ashe also visited Oklahoma City and Woodward in September 2012 to hear local concerns on how a listing of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken would negatively affect agriculture, transportation, energy development, and the general economy.