Lesser prairie chicken

On June 8, 2011, Senator Inhofe (R-OK) filed an amendment (SA 429 (pdf)) to S. 782, the Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011, that would amend section 4 of the Endangered Species Act to exempt the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) from protection under the Act.  According to Inhofe, if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were to list the lesser prairie-chicken, it would greatly restrict the development of wind energy in Oklahoma.

Senator Inhofe’s proposed amendment comes on the heels of Senator Cornyn’s proposed amendment (SA 396 (pdf)) to S. 782 that would exempt the dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) from the Endangered Species Act, as previously discussed here

In 1998, the Service issued a 12-Month Finding (pdf) in which it determined that listing the lesser prairie-chicken as threatened is "warranted but precluded" by other higher priority listing actions.  Most recently, in a Candidate Notice of Review (pdf) published on November 10, 2010, the Service announced that it has retained the second-highest Listing Priority Number, LPN 2, for the prairie-chicken because it continues to face significant and imminent threats throughout its range from agricultural activities and wind, oil, and gas development.

As explained in a prior entry, House Republicans Steve Pearce (R-NM) and Mike Conway (R-TX) and the Permian Basin Petroleum Association adamantly oppose listing the dunes sagebrush lizard and the lesser prairie-chicken for fear that doing so would halt oil and gas production and cost jobs in southeastern New Mexico and west Texas.  Opponents to listing these species add that both species are currently protected under voluntary Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCAs) and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs).  However, both amendments would "exempt" these species from the Act, thus nullifying the primary incentive for private landowners and developers to enter into such CCAs or CCAAs with the Service.

Proponents of the listings such a Wild Earth Guardians argue that failure to list these species could result in their extinction, and that attempts to amend the Endangered Species Act to exempt species from its protection undermines the Act and increases the cost to protect and allow for the recovery of endangered species.

At this time, neither amendment has been taken up for a vote.