WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today praised the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for approving the Lesser Prairie-Chicken (LPC) five-state conservation plan and encouraged FWS Director Dan Ashe to expeditiously approve the Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAA) associated with the LPC conservation plan. The plan was submitted by Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico.
"Fish and Wildlife's decision to approve the five-state, range-wide conservation plan is an important step towards ensuring the Lesser Prairie-Chicken is not listed under the Endangered Species Act," said Inhofe. "It is vital to maintain the conservation efforts at the state level. Despite our lengthy battle to reach this outcome, we continued to pursue approval of the plan because state-driven, voluntary conservation is the most effective way to protect the species. I thank Director Dan Ashe and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Director Richard Hatcher for working with me and other members throughout the process. A listing could harm Oklahoma's farmers and ranchers, our booming energy industry, and the future development of infrastructure in our state. It is my hope that the CCAAs associated with the LPC listing will also be approved in the near future to ensure that the industries that support our state’s economy and our landowners throughout Western Oklahoma are not threatened by a possible listing.”
During his tenure on the EPW Committee, Inhofe has made it a priority to avoid a listing of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), working closely with Ashe to advance public-private partnerships to conserve the species.
On June 13, Inhofe was the lead on a bipartisan letter requesting a six-month delay to the LPC listing decision in order to provide the maximum amount of time to consider the LPC listing allowed under federal law. This resulted in an extension that allowed time for an evaluation of the science behind the listing decision and for the five-state plan to demonstrate results. This letter was in follow-up to a letter on Feb. 20 requesting an extension to the comment period for the proposed threatened listing, which Ashe agreed to provide within a week of the request.
During this time, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted an amendment offered by Congressman Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) to the House Farm Bill ordering a study by United States Department of Agriculture of the cost effectiveness of various conservation plans, including the Range Wide Plan (RWP) submitted by the five states. At the time of this release, the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill are being conferenced.
In February, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service held a public hearing in Woodward, Okla. concerning the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. Ashe also visited Oklahoma City and Woodward last September to hear local concerns on how a listing of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken would negatively affect agriculture, transportation, energy development, and the general economy. In April 2012, Ashe gave Inhofe an assurance at an EPW hearing that FWS "will provide as much flexibility as [it] can" for Oklahoma as it goes forward with a listing decision for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. He also said that he sees Oklahoma as a "leader" in voluntary efforts. Later in June 2012, Director Ashe called Senator Inhofe to inform him that FWS would not list the Sand Dune Lizard under ESA due to the tremendous success of voluntary efforts and said that Oklahoma has the 'right ingredients' for a similar decision on the Lesser Prairie-Chicken.