Thursday, June 27, 2013

Udall: Fish & Wildlife Service to Postpone Final Decision on Lesser Prairie Chicken Listing

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) announced today that the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has agreed to a six-month extension for a final decision on whether to list the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species. The extension comes after Udall led a bipartisan call for delay of the final decision. The additional time will give the FWS an opportunity to study the science and the comments it has received, while enabling stakeholders to continue working on protection of the species — thus potentially providing enough protection to make a listing unnecessary.

Dan Ashe, Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, informed Senator Udall in a letter today that the FWS will publish a notice in the Federal Register on a six-month extension of the final listing determination through March 30, 2014.

The FWS letter also confirmed it is reviewing a conservation plan drafted by state game and fish directors in the five states that would be affected by listing the lesser prairie chicken, something Udall has also strongly encouraged. "The Service appreciates your support for the five-state conservation plan and assures you that we will carefully evaluate application of the plan as part of our listing determination for the lesser prairie-chicken," Ashe wrote.

"I am pleased with the Fish and Wildlife Service's quick response to our request to delay the decision regarding a listing for the lesser prairie chicken," Udall said. "Any final determination must be made according to the best science available, so I am glad to see Director Ashe's commitment to reviewing the five-state plan that local leaders have worked so hard to craft, and that any decision will indeed 'reflect the comments and information submitted to the Service'."

The text of Director Ashe's letter today can be found here.

The original letter on June 14, 2013, requesting the extension can be found here.

In 2012, Udall also wrote to Director Ashe the day after the listing was first proposed, highlighting local efforts already being done to protect the chicken’s habitat and asking that these efforts help guide any possible listing decision.

“As you know, private citizens, companies and public land management agencies in New Mexico have been working for years to help maintain Lesser Prairie Chicken habitat and protect the species,” Udall said at the time.

Udall noted that in New Mexico, many private land owners have already coordinated with Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have worked with permit and lease holders on Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCA) and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAA). The Center of Excellence in Carlsbad has been successfully managing these agreements to ensure habitat for both the lesser prairie chicken and the sand dune lizard is maintained in almost two million acres throughout New Mexico. These agreements provide a safe-harbor for those enrolled to continue previously agreed upon operations and conservation activities regardless of the outcome of any listing decision.


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