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Prairie Chicken Listing Was Not Necessary

Randy Neugebauer | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

30 MAR 2014

Congressman Neugebauer represents Texas' 19th Congressional District.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the lesser prairie chicken would be listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

It was an unnecessary decision, driven by activist lawsuits, which will have far-reaching consequences in West Texas. The bird’s habitat stretches across 62,000 square miles of prairie in five states. Most of that land is private property, managed by farmers, ranchers, energy producers, businesses and homeowners.

When a species is listed, FWS has the authority to restrict land use on private property, without reimbursing the owner, unless the owner is already enrolled in a conservation program authorized in the listing. Even worse, landowners within the species’ habitat could be exposed to lawsuits by environmental activists.

The five states with Lesser Prairie Chicken habitat created a plan to conserve the species. Thirty-two energy companies committed to enrolling more than 3.6 million acres in the Lesser Prairie Chicken Range-Wide Conservation Plan, privately funding more than $20 million in conservation.
The Range-Wide plan is unprecedented in its scope. It provides a framework for collaborative conservation between state agencies, farmers, ranchers, industry and private landowners, and given time, it would have successfully recovered the species, at minimal cost to taxpayers. In a time of bloated bureaucracies and unmanageable federal debt, isn’t this what we should be encouraging?

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