On Wednesday, the United States Senate passed a resolution that denies Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for the critically imperiled lesser prairie chicken. The species was listed for ESA protections last fall by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which cited research demonstrating that 90 percent of the lesser prairie chicken’s habitat in the Great Plains has diminished, causing populations to plummet toward extinction.
The legislation now requires executive approval, but President Joe Biden has already vowed to veto S.J. Res. 9. Just hours before the Senate vote, a statement released by the Office of Management and Budget expressed strong opposition to the resolution, reading, “Overturning common-sense protections for the lesser prairie chicken would undermine America’s proud wildlife conservation traditions” and “risk the extinction of a once-abundant American bird.”
Proponents of the resolution believe ESA protections for the species are unnecessary, despite a 97 percent decline in lesser prairie chicken population since 1960. Kansas politicians championed the joint resolution—United States Senator Roger Marshall and Representative Tracey Mann argued that voluntary efforts by farmers, ranchers, and the oil and gas industry have helped to improve the bird’s habitat, eliminating the need for an ESA listing rule.
Historically, oil and gas development has proven to be harmful to threatened bird species. In 2019, protections for greater sage-grouse—an indicator species whose populations are used to monitor the health of the sagebrush ecosystem—were diminished by the Trump administration to make way for oil and gas drilling on public lands. As a result, the sage-grouse population continues to decrease.
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Quote of the day
Our 131 national monuments are a precious part of national heritage, one that future generations deserve the right to see and enjoy.”
(featured image: Lesser prairie chicken. Always a birder! via Flickr)