No one wants to send a species to extinction, but when a chicken that can be hunted and cooked for dinner is proposed as an endangered species, one has to question the entire program. When that proposed endangered species listing brings together representatives from oil, gas, and wind energy companies—as well as ranchers and farmers—you can be sure changes are needed in the way the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is applied.
The specific critter in question this time is the lesser prairie chicken (LPC) and the proposed ESA listing would have the federal government killing jobs, thwarting economic development, and giving Washington politicos power to control private lands in five states: New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Colorado, and Oklahoma.
In a recent editorial, New Mexico’s Congressman Steve Pearce said: “The Endangered Species Act is one of the most heavy-handed unbending laws we have. …it gives bureaucrats the power to destroy entire economies with hardly a second thought.”
In 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) entered into a massive settlement with environmental groups, in which the agency promised to address more than 250 candidate species it had previously found warranted protection but were precluded from listing due to a backlog. As a part of the closed-door agreement, the FWS also pledged to review hundreds more species proposed for listing. It is the “sue-and-settle agreements,” as Senator David Vitter (R-LA), the top Republican of the Environment and Public Works Committee, calls them, that have required the government to act. Vitter says: “This future regulation could prohibit many beneficial uses of tens of millions of acres of private property. All this was set in motion while no affected landowner or other stakeholder was given any opportunity for input.”