Society

Government Places Lesser Prairie Chicken On Threatened Species List

| by Jonathan Wolfe

The Fish and Wildlife Service placed a grassland grouse known as the lesser prairie chicken on the threatened species list on Thursday.

Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe said the move is long overdue.

"The lesser prairie-chicken is in dire straits," Ashe said. "The bird is in decline and has been in decline for more than a decade."

The lesser prairie chicken population has declined by roughly 50 percent in the last two years alone.

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The main reason for the decline? Human activity like oil and gas drilling, ranching, and power line construction. The tall structures constructed for these activities give the prairie chicken's predators ideal perches to spot and hunt them on. Ashe says the chicken has lost 80 percent of its natural environment.

Though conservationists back the move, oil companies in the affected states call the classification a classic example of government overreach.  They say possible new regulations accompanying the classification could cost them millions.

"This is an overreach on the part of the federal government," Kansas governor Sam Brownback said. “We are looking at possible responses on this issue.”

A 10-member group of oil associations echoed Brownback’s sentiments in a recent statement.

"Adding another layer of regulation on the oil and gas industry in a region that is key to America's energy future and for which there is no clear environmental benefit runs counter to this administration's stated approach to energy and regulation,” the group said.

The disagreement over the move is a classic energy-vs.-ecology debate in which businesses cry over-regulation and conservationists invoke environmental necessity. For proof, contrast the above statement with the one released by the Defenders of Wildlife Association, which called the classification “long overdue.”

"We are talking about a species whose population has plummeted to half of its numbers in just one year," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders of Wildlife president. "This bird deserves effective federal protection, and the government recognized that over 15 years ago.”

Sources: ABC, Fox News