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US Protects Rare Midwest Bird As Prairie Suffers

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US Protects Rare Midwest Bird As Prairie Suffers

(CTN NEWS) – A rare prairie bird that inhabits sections of the Midwest, including one of the nation’s most productive oil and gas fields, has two populations that will now be protected, the U.S. government stated on Thursday.

The lesser prairie chicken range includes Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kansas and the oil-rich Permian Basin at the border between New Mexico and Texas.

According to officials, the grouse-like bird’s habitat has shrunk throughout 90% of its former territory.

According to Amy Lueders, Southwest regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the decline of the lesser prairie chicken reminds us that our native grasslands and prairies are in danger.

The terrestrial birds, which are about the size of crows, are well renowned for their colourful courtship dances performed by the males during a cacophony of clucking, cackling, and booming noises during the spring.

They were formerly believed to number in the millions, but surveys indicate that the five-year population average for the entire range is roughly 30,000.

US Protects Rare Midwest Bird As Prairie Suffers

For many years, environmental lists have pushed for tougher government protections.

They view the species as highly threatening due to farming, cattle grazing, oil and gas development, road and power line construction, and farming.

Republicans in Congress said that existing voluntary conservation efforts should be relied upon and that further protections weren’t necessary.

Once he assumes office in January, Kansas’ newly elected Republican attorney general has vowed to dispute the Fish and Wild Life Service’s judgement in court.

The judgement applies to the grouse’s northern range, where they were given the less serious “threatened” designation and its southern population in New Mexico and the southernmost parts of the Texas Panhandle.

In late January, the rule becomes operative.

Landowners and the oil and gas sector claim that voluntary conservation efforts to preserve habitat and increase the bird population have been successful.

However, according to population projections, the southern regions are less resilient and may only have 5,000 birds left, with estimates for those populations falling to 1,000 between 2015 and 2022 due to dry conditions.

The federal government listed the bird as a threatened species in 2014.

But this designation had to be changed two years later due to court decisions that found the agency had failed to properly consider the voluntary conservation efforts.

According to officials, landowners and oil firms already participating in such programmes won’t be impacted by Thursday’s ruling because they are already protecting habitat.

It stops actions that lead to the destruction or loss of current habitat.

As of late spring, more than 9,375 square miles (24,280 square kilometres) were protected by conservation agreements.

Rep. Tracey Mann, a Republican from Kansas, criticized by saying , “In their final rule, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first commended landowners’ voluntary efforts to increase lesser prairie-chicken populations in Kansas.

And then unilaterally concluded that the federal government is better prepared to address these local areas.”

According to a 2014 Kansas law, the state has the sole authority to control the species, the bigger, darker, and more numerous greater prairie chicken, and their habitats inside its borders.

It gives the attorney general or county prosecutors the right to file a lawsuit in response to any federal effort to enact conservation measures.

President Joe Biden’s administration’s action on the lesser prairie chicken was predicted by Kansas Attorney General-elect Kris Kobach during his campaign this year.

Kobach, a strong supporter of the 2014 state law when it was passed, said the move “seriously impairs” the construction of wind farms and pushes oil and natural gas production “to the brink of extinction.”

“What a shock that they announced this decision after the election!” Kobach stated in a press release. “I will oppose this illegal action in court as attorney general,”

Although animal regulations are “terrific,” Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said they often come too late for prairie fowl.

Robinson’s group filed a lawsuit against the government last month because the release of the final decision was delayed by five months. In 1995, a petition was submitted asking for the bird’s safeguards.

Robinson states, “if the Fish and Wildlife Service had acted more quickly, there would have been a lot more lesser prairie chickens surviving and in many more areas right now.”

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