Activists Sue Federal Regulators to Get More Protection for Prairie Chickens

- LUBBOCK -- Three activist groups sued the federal government Tuesday – claiming that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not doing enough to protect the Lesser Prairie Chicken. The Lesser Prairie Chicken was listed as a “threatened” species in late March which is not the same as “endangered.” 

Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity and Wildearth Guardians claim in their in their lawsuit that the federal government “misapplied its own criteria to make a threatened determination.”

The three activist groups said the federal government surveyed the number of Prairie Chickens, and, “The survey documents a reduction from approximately 35,000 birds in 2012 to approximately 17,616 birds in 2013.”

The lawsuit said the chickens were quickly disappearing because of lost habitat and drought.

“The best available scientific information indicates the [Fish & Wildlife] Service should have listed the lesser prairie-chicken as endangered rather than threatened, as it is currently ‘in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range,’ which is the definition of ‘endangered.’”

At the same time the federal government has also been sued by the Permian Basin Petroleum Association and four counties governments in New Mexico. The PBPA lawsuit said exactly the opposite as the activist groups. They claimed the Fish & Wildlife service went too far in taking any action for the Prairie Chickens. 

PBPA said due to the “threatened” listing oil producers and ranchers face “higher costs and higher administrative burden to operate and in some cases they may not be able to operate.”

An “endangered” listing would mandate even tighter restrictions to protect the Lesser Prairie Chickens. 

The PBPA lawsuit was filed in Midland. The activist group lawsuit was filed in Washington D.C.

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