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A1-3-28-Endangered-Grouse

Feds list prairie chicken as threatened

March 27, 2014 • Local News

This March 2007 photo provided by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department shows a male lesser prairie chicken in a mating stature in the Texas panhandle. (AP Photo)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species Thursday in a move that could further impact agriculture, oil and gas and other activities in Southeast New Mexico.

Many industry leaders and landowners hoped the agency would not list the bird, following months of negotiating and spending millions on conservation agreements and scientific study.

Dan Ashe, the agency’s director, said he knew the decision would be unpopular with Gov. Susana Martinez and four other governors who worked with a variety of groups to develop the conservations plans.

“The lesser prairie chicken is in dire straits,” Ashe said.

The agency’s determination was that the prairie chicken warranted a listing as a threatened species with a special rule under the Endangered Species Act. It allows more flexibility under the act and will limit regulatory impacts on landowner and businesses.

The listing is one level below the status of “endangered.”

Ashe said unprecedented partnership efforts and leadership of the five range states for management of the species led to the listing designation.

The listing restricts use on private, state and federal land on the bird’s 40-million acre habitat in Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico and Kansas. Restrictions will take affect in about 30 days.

Local officials and industry experts were disappointed in the agency’s decision.

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