Published: 1:00 pm, Fri. Jul. 22nd, 2016Updated: 2:20 pm
Oil and gas industry supporters can cross one controversial court battle off their lists this week after the U.S. government removed the lesser prairie chicken from a federal protection list under the Endangered Species Act.
The chicken, which mainly resides in Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado, has been considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to its restricted and irregular range as well as its vulnerability to habitat destruction.
In the first half of 2014, the chicken was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Then in June, the Permian Basin Petroleum Association and several New Mexico counties filed a lawsuit challenging the listing. Oil and gas groups strongly opposed the listing as they said it would hinder operations and cost companies millions of dollars in expansion expenses.
New Mexico State Rep. Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, talked to the Daily Press Thursday morning via telephone, as he is currently in Cleveland, Ohio, at the Republican National Convention.
“I’m tickled to death that the chicken has been taken off the endangered species list. I wish there were more being de-listed,” said Townsend. “Our country would be better served if the list was not used by environmentalists as a tool. We need to be working towards environmental issues in a critical fashion without hampering industries. I look forward to more animals being de-listed.”
Congressman Steve Pearce, R-N.M., has strongly opposed the chicken’s listing for a number of years. Pearce released a statement on his Facebook page but was unavailable for comment this week.
“While this is great news for New Mexico, I am frustrated it took this long to resolve the situation,” Pearce wrote. “This listing was unnecessary from the beginning and has cost New Mexicans jobs. Private landowners and states are perfectly capable of managing this species and I hope that in the future this Administration takes local conservation efforts into account before making any listing decision.”
Artesia Mayor Phil Burch was also pleased upon hearing news of the de-listing.
“The chicken was removed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this week, which certainly makes for good news for oil and gas folks in Southeast New Mexico as well as farmers and ranchers who no longer have this hanging over their head,” said Burch. “We’re pleased that this decision was made; it’s the second one after the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard. This is good news for the economy of Southeast New Mexico and Artesia companies.”
The Artesia Chamber of Commerce was an active participant in seeking the chicken’s removal from the list.
“Of course it’s a real win for the local economy now that it’s no longer listed,” said Chamber of Commerce Director Hayley Klein. “We like to believe that we’ve done as much as we can to make the case for the negative impact of such a listing.”