Update: The reopened comment period will end March 11. A decision on the listing is still expected in September.
The decision to possibly list the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act has been reopened to comment. According to Associated Press, eight House Republicans and several senators requested the action out of concern that the listing could damage natural resource and agricultural growth.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced last November that it would consider protection for the lesser prairie chicken, a species of grouse. The listing would affect several states in the animal’s natural range, including Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Colorado. The species is considered “vulnerable” the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to habitat decline.
If the bird is listed, additional federal oversight and regulations may be applied to ensure the prairie chicken’s survival and habitat. This move would affect numerous landowners and industries, and some states have already begun planning for that eventuality. Oklahoma recently announced the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances Program (CCAA), a program agreed upon by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and USFWS to help reduce the impact of the listing on landowners.
Debate has arisen between conservationists alarmed by the bird’s decline and landowners who feel threatened by the changes a listing would bring. Many hope for an alternative solution to the prairie chicken’s survival, one that will not harm local industries and family budgets.