Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe still thinks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking the wrong action when it comes to listing the Lesser Prairie Chicken under the Endangered Species Act.
The Senator said this week he was “extremely disappointed” to learn the Fish and Wildlife Service had taken the action.
“I have emphasized time and again the harm this listing will have on Oklahomans, especially our agriculture and oil and gas industry. This unnecessary listing ignores the success of current conservation efforts and will undoubtedly discourage future additional voluntary conservation efforts by private entities like that from farmers, ranchers, energy companies and other stakeholders.”
Sen. Inhofe has fought the efforts for more than a decade.
Between March 2013 and February 2014, Inhofe wrote the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) four times requesting that the FWS expeditiously approve the five-state Range Wide Plan, which governs economic activity in the LPC’s range in a way that provides regulatory certainty to industry, and the agriculture and oil and gas Candidate Conservative Agreements with Assurances (CCAA), which are associated programs that also provide regulatory certainty allowing industry to continue operations. Inhofe has brought attention to these programs at numerous Environment and Public Works Committee hearings.
On March 27, 2014, the FWS listed the bird as “threatened”, under the ESA, which Inhofe noted was a purely political move. Despite the listing, Inhofe worked consistently to ensure that Oklahoma’s job-creators were protected from the harm that an unnecessary ESA listing creates. The CCAA and the Range Wide Plan were ultimately approved and the FWS’ listing was overturned by the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas in 2015.
On June 9, 2011, Inhofe introduced an amendment to the Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011 that would ensure that the Lesser Prairie Chicken is not listed under the Endangered Species Act. A listing of the LPC would disrupt energy projects and discount voluntary conservation efforts by private stakeholders.
In the 113th Congress, Inhofe introduced the Lesser Prairie Chicken Voluntary Recovery Act of 2014 (S.2677) to remove the LPC from the list of threatened species under ESA for a period of five years to allow the state-driven conservation plans to take effect.
On May 21, 2021, Inhofe led a letter to Interior Secretary Haaland urging against a listing of the LPC. He and his colleagues noted that a premature listing would send the wrong message to private stakeholders who had invested considerable time and resources into voluntary and successful conservation efforts.
On November 17th, 2021, Inhofe submitted questions to nominated Fish and Wildlife Service Director Williams following a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing on the proposed listing of the LPC. He urged her to clearly commit to defining what “ranching” entails in a potential future listing and include ample protections for routine ranching and grazing practices.
On May 18, 2022, Inhofe questioned Fish and Wildlife Service Director Williams at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the proposed listing of the LPC. He pressed her to ensure that FWS used the most updated population data and took into account successful private conservation efforts.
On May 25, 2022, Inhofe sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urging them to implement a six-month extension on the Service’s determination as to whether to list the LPC under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to allow for the incorporation of the most recent population data into its assessment.