Fed. Regulations on Lesser Prairie Chicken Run A-Fowl of Courts

Brittany M. Hughes | September 3, 2015
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Photo by Greg Kramos / USFWS

(Photo by Greg Kramos / USFWS)

While ISIS continues its bloody onslaught in the Middle East, Syrian refugees die attempting to flee their war-torn nation, illegal aliens steadily stream across the U.S.-Mexico border and the stock market teeters back and forth like a rusty see-saw, Americans can rest assured knowing that the lesser prairie chicken is making a comeback in the Midwest.

A federal judge in Texas on Wednesday overturned a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule that would have added the lesser prairie chicken (LPC) to the list of “threatened” species, which is one category below the “endangered” species designation, due to the bird's growing population.

Prevalent across Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, the lesser prairie chicken population is currently estimated at around 30,000 birds. The federal move to list the bird -- which is actually a type of grouse -- as “threatened” was challenged by farmers, ranchers and gas and oil companies in the Midwest, who said such a designation would hurt their ability to expand due to federal restrictions over the birds’ habitat.

In order to avoid further federal regulation, legislators in the five states where the birds lived created their own conservation program, offering incentives to companies and farmers that put aside land for the chickens to live on. Following the efforts, the LPC population has increased by about 10,000 in the past two years, aerial surveys have shown.

The court’s ruling was hailed by several Republican members of Congress, including Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) who issued the following statement:

"Today's ruling to declassify the lesser prairie chicken is a major triumph against the Obama Administration's regulatory onslaught‎ via the ESA that has trampled on businesses and private property rights. The President’s abuse of laws like the ESA is just another example of his administration's attempts to cut off access to American energy resources and continue to stranglehold our nation into complete reliance on foreign oil to meet our energy needs.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, also hailed the ruling, adding, “It is my hope that this ruling, along with language providing a temporary delisting of the LPC in the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act, will enable states to effectively conserve species without all of the burdensome federal regulations that come with a listing under the [Endangered Species Act].”

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