US District Court Overturns ESA Listing for Lesser Prairie Chicken
On Sept. 1, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas overturned the Administration’s listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken under the Endangered Species Act. Ruling in favor of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association and other plaintiffs, the judge concluded that the listing was arbitrary and capricious and that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to properly follow its own process for listing determinations in this matter.
Further, conservation efforts have already been undertaken across millions of acres over five states to improve habitat and diminish threats to the Lesser Prairie Chicken. The Court determined these conservation efforts, which have resulted in a 25 percent increase in the population of Lesser Prairie Chicken from 2014 to 2015, were ignored by the administration.
Dustin Van Liew, executive director of the Public Lands Council and NCBA federal lands applauded the ruling, calling the listing an unjust use of the ESA to put more land under federal jurisdiction and restriction.
“Despite the overwhelming evidence that the Prairie Chicken population and habitat is thriving, the Administration pushed the listing through, which ultimately hurts the local economies and hampers the productive uses of these rural lands,” said Van Liew. “By working with ranchers and those that work the land every day, conservation efforts can be put in place that help wildlife habitat as well as production agriculture and the Lesser Prairie Chicken is prime example.”
The ESA has not been updated or reauthorized since 1988, and has continually proven itself ineffective. Of the 1,500 domestic species listed since 1973, less than two percent have ever been deemed recovered.
Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Cynthia Lummis echoed frustration with the outdated ESA and went even further to say Judge Junell caught the agency red-handed, bending their own rules.
“Judge Junell caught the Fish and Wildlife Service playing fast and loose with its own rules, putting a closed door court settlement deadline ahead of boots-on-the-ground conservation,” said Chairman Lummis. “The expertise, resources, and will to conserve species at the state and local level have never been stronger. The forty year old Endangered Species Act needs to be updated to embrace stewardship over litigation.”
NCBA and PLC continue to call on Congress to address the Endangered Species Act. The rampant abuse by radical environmentalists and the agencies continue to threaten the livelihoods of America’s rural families and local economies.
Van Liew added, “We hope the Administration heeds this ruling and similarly accounts for all the conservation efforts by ranchers to help the Sage Grouse before making another arbitrary listing.”