Lawmakers Demand Answers from USFWS Director Dan Ashe Regarding His Intent on Possibly Relisting Lesser Prairie ChickenSat, 30 Jul 2016 10:53:34 CDT
On Thursday, Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder and thirteen of his House colleagues sent a letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe expressing concerns over recent statements made regarding the potential re-listing of the lesser prairie-chicken under the Endangered Species Act. Three members of the Oklahoma Congressional delegation, Congressmen Frank Lucas, Tom Cole and Markwayne Mullin, were among the lawmakers who signed the letter with the Kansas lawmaker.
Earlier this month, USFWS fulfilled a court ruling that had vacated its ESA listing decision by officially removing the LPC from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Following the decision, the agency issued a press release stating that they were in the process of "undertaking a new status review to determine whether listing is again warranted." And that news release quoted Director Ashe as saying "Responding to this court ruling by removing the bird from the Federal List does not mean we are walking away from efforts to conserve the lesser prairie-chicken. Far from it. We are undertaking a new status review to determine whether listing is again warranted, and we will continue to work with our state partners and others on efforts to protect vital habitat and ensure this flagship of the prairies survives well into the future."
"These statements from Fish & Wildlife have confirmed our suspicions," Representative Yoder said. "The Administration remains committed to this misguided effort to save a bird that already saw its population increase over the last few years due to local efforts. My amendment to prevent the Administration from reopening its efforts and protect farmers and ranchers from unwanted government overreach passed the Appropriations Committee unanimously. Congress' intent on this issue is clear, and we're working to make sure Fish & Wildlife respects that."
In an effort to prevent USFWS from disregarding clear congressional intent, the letter clarifies the language included in the House-passed version of the FY2017 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill that expressly prohibits USFWS from attempting to re-list the LPC under any ESA designation over the next year.
The letter was signed by House members from all five of the states with LPC habitats: Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico. The thirteen other signers include: Mike Conaway (TX-11), the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Lynn Jenkins (KS-02), Mike Pompeo (KS-04), Tom Cole (OK-04), Frank Lucas (OK-03), Pete Sessions (TX-32), Louie Gohmert (TX-01), Jeb Hensarling (TX-05), Will Hurd (TX-23), Markwayne Mullin (OK-02), Scott Tipton (CO-03), Ken Buck (CO-04), and Steve Pearce (NM-02).
The text of the letter follows:
July 28, 2016
Director, Dan Ashe
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS)
1849 C. Street, NW, ROOM 3331
Washington, DC 20240
We write to express our concerns over recent statements you have made regarding the status of the listing of the lesser prairie-chicken (LPC) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Following the bird's removal from the list of threatened and endangered species, in accordance with the court order issued by the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, your agency issued a press release stating that U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is "undertaking a new status review to determine whether listing is again warranted."
This assurance is extremely troubling to many of our constituents and we would like clarification on what this "new status review" looks like and how your agency intends to pay for it, as this would be in direct violation of language included in the House Passed version of the Fiscal Year 2017 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill. To be clear, we would like to reiterate the intent of the language below.
"None of the funds made available by this Act shall be used to treat the lesser prairie chicken as an endangered species or threatened species, or a candidate for listing as such a species, under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.)."
This bill language is intended to prevent USFWS from attempting to re-list the lesser prairie-chicken, under any ESA designation, from now until the end of Fiscal Year 2017. At which time Congress will have the opportunity to re-evaluate the legislation. However, we are confident that efforts being taken at the state and local level will be more than enough to see that the bird's population continues to rebound.
We thank you for your attention to this letter and look forward to your response. If you have any questions about this request, please contact Michael Brooks with Rep. Kevin Yoder at (202) 225-2865.
Source: Congressman Kevin Yoder and US FWS Release
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