LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- The U.S. House of Representatives passed a joint resolution of disapproval on July 27 against the Biden administration's change in the Endangered Species Act status of the lesser prairie chicken.
The resolution passed in a 221-206 vote largely along partisan lines after the U.S. Senate sent the measure to the House. The resolution seeks to invalidate a final rule put forward by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that is the subject of controversy and ongoing legal action by states, farms and ranches.
The resolution would only take effect if signed by President Joe Biden who is likely to veto the measure. The vote came after an hour-long debate on the resolution sponsored by Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan.
On Dec. 22, 2022, a bicameral joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act was introduced in an attempt to strike down the listing.
Last week a group of farms and ranches as well as county officials in Kansas filed a federal lawsuit challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's final rule that added the lesser prairie chicken to the endangered list.
The Biden administration finalized a rule on Nov. 25, 2022, extending Endangered Species Act protections to what was the threatened Northern distinct population segment of the bird.
Farms, ranches and counties alleged in the lawsuit the change in listing is hurting their ability to manage land in western Kansas where oil production is extensive.
Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., said listing the lesser prairie chicken as endangered was unnecessary considering the species is growing in numbers.
"The lesser prairie chicken is a boom-and-bust species that are extremely susceptible to precipitation in its native range," Westerman said.
"Simply put, when it rains, the lesser prairie chicken populations grow and in droughts, their populations often shrink."
A private voluntary conservation effort for the species was developed and implemented in 2013. Private industry invested $65 million into species conservation and nearly 6 million acres of habitat conserved for the lesser prairie chicken.
"These investments have produced results," Westerman said.
"They've resulted in population growth from less than 20,000 birds in 2013 to more than 35,000 birds in 2020. However, the listing puts all of the voluntary conservation efforts to date in jeopardy. The unavoidable truth about the ESA is that a listing means less private investment which harms conservation efforts."
With that level of success for the lesser prairie chicken, he said the Biden administration's change in listing makes no sense.
"You would think that [if] a species were increasing they wouldn't go from threatened to endangered, they would go the other way," Westerman said.
"The area that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to make the lesser prairie chicken endangered is in the Permian basin, not just the Permian basin but the Delaware basin in the Permian basin. That's the richest deposits of oil in our country."
The Permian Basin is a sedimentary basin located in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico.
Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., said the House's action would put the future of the lesser prairie chicken in the hands of large companies.
"I could talk about how badly these two measures undermine conservation efforts for species that are endangered, threatened across our nation and across the globe," he said.
"I could talk about how these resolutions give industry and not science the upper hand in making decisions about endangered species. But as I thought about it, I realized that what's more offensive than these resolutions themselves is the fact that these resolutions are on the floor right now today."
Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr., D-Va., opposed the resolution saying it undermines the Endangered Species Act.
"These partisan resolutions are also out of step with what Americans care about," Beyer said.
"Our constituents are looking for us to lead, to take action to restore a healthy biodiverse and climate stable planet. These resolutions are part of an agenda that puts polluters over people. Americans don't want to see politicians interfering to reverse science-based endangered species protections, cementing species path to extinction."
Rep. Tracey Mann, R-Kan., said the USFWS action on the lesser prairie chicken was undermining conservation efforts performed by farmers and ranchers.
"Farmers, ranchers and agriculture producers are American heroes," Mann said.
"They're the backbone of America and they are working tirelessly every day to keep us all fed while dealing with the burdens of inflation, drought and market fluctuations. The last thing they need is the federal government handcuffing them with senseless red tape. The truth is Kansas producers have voluntarily conserved more than 40,000 acres of habitat for the lesser prairie chicken through both private investment and conservation programs, the population of the lesser prairie chicken rises and falls with rainfall."
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said the lesser prairie chicken has seen the best results when federal agencies work with landowners to put in place effective land management.
"My father used to say there's a fine line between doing something for people and doing something to people," Lucas said.
"Let me be clear, listing the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act is government doing something to people not for them. This listing creates unnecessary and burdensome restrictions on Oklahoma agriculture and oil and gas industries and limits our ability as a country to provide for ourselves and the world."
Rep. John Duarte, R-Calif., said the intent of the Endangered Species Act is to protect vulnerable species.
"Listing the prairie chicken as endangered will have far reaching negative impacts on rural communities, working families and conservation efforts, all while ignoring the best available science," Duarte said.
"First and foremost, this action will place more red tape on farmers, ranchers and small businesses leading to more federal control and less personal freedom. Rural America already faces significant challenges and more federal red tape will only limit job growth and crush rural communities."
Read more on DTN:
"KS Farms Sue on Lesser Prairie Chicken," https://www.dtnpf.com/…
Todd Neeley can be reached at email@example.com
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