Senate votes to end protections for lesser prairie chicken

May 4, 2023

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.

Quick hits

Biden rule protecting lesser prairie chicken overturned by U.S. Senate

Associated Press | Kansas Reflector | KWCH

New Mexico delegation renews push for broader Chaco protection

Associated Press

California back at bargaining table over Colorado River cuts

E&E News

Opinion: National monuments preserve our natural heritage

Cap Times

Group calls on New Mexico to crack down on air pollution releases from oil and gas

Carlsbad Current-Argus

At Zion National Park, too many people, too little management

Salt Lake Tribune

Opinion: Rosendale’s off-base proposal to defund public land protection

Flathead Beacon

Planned uranium drilling near Bears Ears sparks pushback

E&E News

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.”

—Spencer Black, Cap Times

Picture this

wildflowers on a ridge at sunrise

It’s #NationalWildFlowerWeek.  Get out on #YourPublicLands and enjoy the beauty of spring. Just remember, #wildflowers are for looking, not picking. Pollinators, birds and wildlife rely on them for food and shelter.

(featured image: Lesser prairie chicken. Always a birder! via Flickr)