Friday, November 30, 2012
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today voiced support for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal not to list the lesser prairie chicken as an “endangered species,” and to instead list it only as “threatened.” A federal listing of “endangered” comes with more punitive and job-killing restrictions that would harm economic activity like wind power development. In Oklahoma, the state has invested $26 million since 1996 in conservation efforts in over 563,000 acres in an attempt to protect the lesser prairie chicken.
“Officials in my administration along with other state agencies have been diligently working to conserve the habitat of the lesser prairie chicken while taking into account our desire to create jobs and support industry,” Fallin said. “I want to thank the members of my administration who have done a terrific job in representing Oklahoma stakeholders on this issue including Secretary of Environment Gary Sherrer, Secretary of Energy Michael Ming, Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese, Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley and Secretary of Commerce Dave Lopez.”
“While I believe the decision to classify the lesser prairie chicken as ‘threatened’ is overly cautious, the fact that it was not listed as ‘endangered’ is a sign the federal government appreciates our efforts to protect this animal and its habitat. I’m hopeful the lesser prairie chicken conservation plan already being put into practice by wildlife managers in Oklahoma and our neighboring states will eventually lead to the species receiving a ‘not warranted’ decision from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which would not place any restrictions on the species.”
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, working with a wide variety of industry has developed the Oklahoma Lesser Prairie Chicken Conservation Action Plan. The plan is designed to improve habitat while also taking into account the economic development needs of the habitat area including agriculture, oil and gas development, and transportation.
A “threatened” listing provides much more flexibility to landowners and wildlife managers in Oklahoma and allows the state Wildlife Department much more input in the management of the species.
“I am pleased to see that the hard work that industry, land owners, and the state have accomplished and will continue to accomplish has avoided an endangered listing," Secretary of Environment Gary Sherrer said. “The state will continue to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take the necessary actions to receive a ‘not warranted’ decision over the next year.”