Beef Buzz News
NCBA and PLC Call ESA Listing Plan of Lesser Prairie Chicken Punitive for Cattle Producers in Southern PlainsWed, 23 Nov 2022 14:51:00 CST
Once again, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the Lesser Prairie Chicken across parts of five states- including western Oklaoma and Kansas, southeastern Colorado, New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle. After the bird was listed as threateneda few years back- the listing here in 2022 is in two parts- the southern population area for the bird in New Mexico and the southern half of the Texas Panhandle is being called endangered- while the areas in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and the northern part of the Texas Panhandle is being called threatened.
According to the Fish and Wildlife release on the final rule- "The lesser prairie-chicken serves as an indicator for healthy grasslands and prairies – needing large, unfragmented parcels of intact native grasslands to maintain self-sustaining populations. This makes them an important measure of the overall health of America’s grasslands, a treasured and storied landscape.
"While historical estimates suggest lesser prairie-chickens once numbered in the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, across nearly 100 million acres, populations have declined drastically due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Lesser prairie-chicken habitat has diminished across its historical range by about 90 percent. Aerial survey results from 2012 through 2022 estimate a five-year average lesser prairie-chicken population of 32,210 across the five-state region. Their decline reflects the larger decline in the vitality and resilience in shinnery oak, sand sagebrush and mixed- and short-grass prairie ecosystems."
Two groups that have reviewed the final rule and find it lacking is the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the Public Lands Council. Oklahoma Farm Report's Ron Hays talked this week after the release of the rule with Sigrid Johannes, the Associate Director of the groups and she is our guest on this edition of the Beef Buzz.
“We are deeply disappointed by the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to impose redundant bureaucracy and punitive restrictions on the very same people that we have to thank for the lesser prairie chicken’s continued existence on the range.”
To make matters worse, the Service is also establishing a 4(d) rule for the Northern DPS that enables them to appoint private third parties – such as environmental activist groups – as the grazing authorities in the range of the LPC. FWS has stipulated that cattle producers in the Northern DPS range will only qualify for legal protection under the 4(d) rule if they are following a grazing management plan that has obtained arbitrary approval from a yet-to-be-named, FWS-approved third party. By contrast, other agricultural practices that are listed as key factors in the Service’s decision are granted far more flexibility. According to Johannes- the FWS has told the groups that they have ruled out using the USDA's National Resource and Conservation Service as the third party- opening the way for a less qualified and less friendly to the cattle industry group to likely be named by the Biden Administration.
Designing a third-party verification system to empower distant bureaucrats over land managers and ranchers with decades of experience, with parameters that blatantly prioritize political objectives over sound science, effectively ensures that the only use of the 4(d) rule will be to obstruct grazing activities.
The rule establishes two Distinct Population Segments (DPS) for the species: the Southern DPS that covers New Mexico and the southwest Texas panhandle, and the Northern DPS that covers southeastern Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and the northeast Texas panhandle. The Southern DPS will be listed as endangered and the Northern DPS will be listed as threatened. The final rule does not include any critical habitat designation. Cattle grazing provides immense benefit by conserving the very habitat the species needs to thrive. These birds favor diverse rangeland with a variety of plant species rather than uniform grasslands or cropland.
Click on the LISTEN BAR above or on the link below to listen to Ron and Sigrid talk about the ESA listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken and what that could mean for beef cattle producers across the five state region once the rule goes into effect January 24, 2023.
The Beef Buzz is a regular feature heard on radio stations around the region on the Radio Oklahoma Ag Network and is a regular audio feature found on this website as well. Click on the LISTEN BAR for today’s show and check out our archives for older Beef Buzz shows covering the gamut of the beef cattle industry today.
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