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Sen. Moran Presses USFWS to Reconsider Lesser Prairie Chicken Listing

Highlights Increased Population Following Increase in Rainfall

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) today requested information from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Director Dan Ashe regarding how the agency intends to use new evidence highlighting a significant increase in the lesser prairie chicken (LPC) population. An aerial survey conducted by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) estimates the bird’s population to be 29,162 birds – a nearly 50 percent increase since 2013. 

“The fact the lesser prairie chicken population is rebounding after increased rainfall in the habitat area comes as no surprise to Kansans familiar with the region,” said Sen. Moran. “We don’t need burdensome regulations from federal government dictating land use practices and hindering our rural economy. More rainfall, as well as locally-driven, voluntary conservation plans developed with stakeholder input, will do far more for the bird’s conservation than bureaucrats and regulators in Washington.”

The bird’s population decreased largely as a result of the historic, multi-year drought impacting the habitat area. Every county in Kansas with habitat area was experiencing a D3-Extreme Drought or D4-Exceptional Drought in 2013 at the time of the WAFWA annual aerial population survey, according to the U.S. Drought monitor. As rainfall returned to more historic norms in 2014 and again this year, the bird’s population has correspondingly increased.  

In an attempt to avoid the bird’s listing under the Endangered Species Act, farmers, ranchers, energy developers and other stakeholders in the region came together to develop a locally-driven, voluntary conservation plan. However, the plan was not given the opportunity to prove its effectiveness because the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service chose to list the bird as a threatened species in March 2014. 

Since the listing, Sen. Moran has led the effort in Congress to reverse the misguided decision. His amendment to the FY2016 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill to restrict the use of funds for enforcement of the listing passed with a majority vote. In January 2015, Sen. Moran also successfully secured a vote on a similar LPC amendment to Keystone XL pipeline legislation (S.1), which received the support of a bipartisan majority of senators. 

The full text of the senator’s letter is available here.


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