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“This proposal is politically motivated and has no place in how we manage our nation’s wildlife,” said Marshall Johnson, conservation manager, National Audubon Society. “Congress should not let politics interfere where the science is clear. This bird will disappear from our prairies without these necessary protections.
The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee voted last week to use the Congressional Review Act to overturn a November 2022 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to list the capercaillie. grasslands under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The committee also passed two other resolutions, Joint House Resolutions 46 and 49, which also use the Congressional Review Act to undermine science-based conservation decisions under the ESA. These resolutions will then be submitted to the Plenary Assembly for a vote, which could take place this week.
Since official nationwide bird monitoring began in the 1960s, Greater Prairie-Chicken populations have declined by 97% across their range. This decline is one of the most precipitous of any bird in the United States and will ultimately lead to extinction if left untreated.
“We are running out of time to save the lesser prairie grouse from extinction,” said Jon Hayes, executive director of Audubon Southwest and vice president of the National Audubon Society. “For years, landowners, community leaders and conservationists have attempted voluntary measures to avoid listing, but science has clearly shown that our best efforts are not enough.”
The Greater Prairie-Chicken was first proposed to ESA in 1995. Since then, the bird has gone through a rollercoaster of listing decisions, court orders and unsuccessful recovery efforts, while populations continue to decline. The species is managed separately in the northern and southern parts of its range, which includes parts of five states (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico).
“These resolutions set a dangerous precedent for wildlife protection and trample on a real opportunity to demonstrate how we can save a species while strengthening rural economies,” Johnson said.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has worked to provide flexibility for landowners and land managers by providing regulatory certainty through voluntary programs for sustainable agriculture and ranching.
“New federal investments and landowner incentives resulting from the listing of the Greater Greater Prairie-Chicken will make our grasslands healthier, improve groundwater infiltration, sequester carbon and make rangelands more resilient overall,” added Hayes. “Cows need the same healthy grass and soil as birds do.”
The FWS has also taken steps to create an Incidental Take Permit that energy companies can apply for, allowing them to mitigate their intended impact by restoring and protecting Greater Greater Prairie-Chicken habitat. This “conservation bank” idea could prove to be a way forward that will help protect the bird while meeting the needs of the industry.
Audubon’s Conservation Ranching program supports market incentives for ranchers who manage their rangelands for bird habitat. Partnerships like this offer a win-win solution for birds, such as Greater Greater Prairie-Chicken, and beef producers.
Stock Alert: Urge your congressmen to keep the prairie chicken list alive
Thanks to the National Audubon Society for providing this news.