From Staff and Wire Reports
U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn criticized the federal government’s placing of the grassland grouse, known as the lesser prairie chicken, on a list of threatened species, a move that could affect oil and gas drilling, wind farms and other activities in five central and southwestern states.
“I am disappointed in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Conaway, R-Texas, who represents Palo Pinto County. “Director Ashe had the opportunity to build a new model of cooperative conservation and he failed.”
Conaway said the purpose of the range-wide plan was to preclude a listing and show that a voluntary, stakeholder process could preserve the lesser prairie chicken.
“Stakeholders deserved the opportunity to see if their efforts would be successful.,” Conaway said. “The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife agencies, the oil and gas industry, and farmers and ranchers did an incredible job of putting together a range-wide conservation plan, only to have Director Ashe disregard the potential of voluntary efforts to preserve the lesser prairie chicken.”
As of March 21, nearly 4 million acres of land had been enrolled in the plan and more than $26 million in non-federal money had been committed.
“(Thursday’s) decision to list the lesser prairie chicken as threatened certainly does not encourage an atmosphere of trust and cooperation,” stated the congressman.
Cornyn, R-Texas, said the decision has “real-world consequences for Texas families, landowners and businesses,” saying it is a “missed opportunity to acknowledge Texans’ unprecedented conservation efforts. I will continue to fight to reform this process so job creators and local officials have a say.
“I’m disappointed the Obama Administration made this decision based on arbitrary deadlines set in a closed-door meeting, ignoring the ongoing efforts by Texas landowners and businesses.”