In letters issued Wednesday to lawmakers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe announced that the organization will grant a six-month extension for a final decision on whether to list the lesser prairie chicken as endangered.
Ashe said in the letter the Service will publish a notice in the Federal Register for an extension of the final listing determination through March 30, 2014.
He also said the Service will consider the conservation plan submitted by the five states that would be affected by the listing.
Earlier this month, members of Congress, including Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Steve Pearce R-N.M., submitted letters to the Service requesting an extension.
In a statement released Wednesday, Udall said he is pleased with the Service’s quick response.
“Any final determination must be made according to the best science available, so I am glad to see Director Ashe’s commitment to reviewing the five-state plan that local leaders have worked so hard to craft, and that any decision will indeed ‘reflect the comments and information submitted to the Service,’” he said.
Commissioners representing Chaves and other counties will attend a coordination meeting with the Service scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., Thursday, July 11, at the Campus Union Building of Eastern New Mexico University-Portales. The meeting will be open to the public.
Chaves County Commission Chairman Greg Nibert will preside over the meeting, which he said may be the only coordination meeting the Service has with local governments.
The delay of the decision-making process won’t affect the meeting, he said, “in terms of substance or in terms of our strategy.”
“We need to engage with the Fish and Wildlife Service and show them what we’ve done in Chaves County and the other counties can show what they’ve done in those counties and the additional science that they ought to consider in their decision-making process.”
He said the Service also gave an extension in the proposed listing of dunes sagebrush lizard and that the affected states should be pleased that the agency “is going to extend the decision-making process and not try to make a quick decision.”
“Having more time for their scientists to really look closely at the work that the states have done and the county has done and the work that other organizations have done, I think is a good thing.”