Lesser Prairie-Chicken Population Continuing to Grow
Thursday, January 17, 2019 – The annual Lesser prairie-chicken (LPC) population report has been issued and is available for downloading. It finds that LPC numbers continue to increase, and that the population is now at its highest level since annual counts began in 2012 during a record-setting drought.
The annual aerial survey was overseen by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA). WAFWA’s objective is to estimate the range-wide population size over time.
From 2012 to 2018 the estimated LPC population has ranged from the 2013 low of 15,019 to 2018’s high of 40,111, with a 90% confidence interval for the survey’s accuracy. The annual survey’s accuracy is improving, and now uses a more precise spatially explicit method that is more time-intensive than the previously used conventional methodology.
In addition to estimating the number of birds, the report also estimated the relationship between LPC abundance and environmental covariates. Development-related covariates had either no discernable relationship or negative relationships. Vegetation-related covariates had mixed effects, with cropland and woodlands having either no discernable relationship or negative relationships with LPC abundance and grasslands and shrublands having either no discernable relationship or positive relationships. CRP-enrolled lands had either no discernable relationships or positive relationships.
The researchers acknowledge that evaluation of existing conservation actions is not a strong point of the report, but that understanding the effectiveness of conservation efforts is imperative to successful wildlife management. This is best achieved through manipulative experiments. They have identified this as an area for improvement, though acknowledging that stakeholder support may be difficult to obtain, and that developing a broad-scale field experiment may be prohibitively expensive.
KNRC’s PECE Case Gets a Boost from the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho –
Wednesday, March 6, 2019 — On April 10, 2018, the Kansas Natural Resource Coalition filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to submit its Policy for Evaluating Conservation Efforts (PECE Rule) for congressional review under the mandates of the Congressional Review Act. The following day, Tugaw Ranches, LLC, located in Idaho, filed suit against the Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service for failing to submit four records of decision (RODs) for land use plan amendments implementing the agencies’ sage-grouse plans.
The agencies filed motions to dismiss both suits for lack of jurisdiction. On November 29, 2018, the United States District Court for the District of Idaho heard oral argument and took the government’s motion under advisement.
On February 25, 2019, Chief U.S. District Court Judge David Nye denied the government’s motion to dismiss, finding that there is no clear prohibition of judicial review of agency action under the CRA and that the court has jurisdiction to hear the claims at issue in the Tugaw Ranches case.
In his ruling, Judge Nye stated that “Reading judicial review out of the CRA foils its primary purpose. Congress enacted the APA and CRA to act as a check and balance on agency action. Reading the statute in such a way as to foreclose that option—even more specifically to foreclose that option just for the agencies—arbitrarily gives said agencies more power than originally intended.”
Judge Nye’s decision is much more significant than typical decisions on motions to dismiss because once judicial review is established, CRA claims are clear-cut: (1) is the rule excluded from the CRA’s reach?; and (2) was it submitted for congressional review? In Tugaw Ranches, the answer to both questions is “no.” In KNRC’s PECE case, the answers are also both “no.”
So, on February 27th, KNRC’s attorneys filed a notice of supplemental authority to the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, where our PECE case is being heard, to assist the court in its upcoming decision on the government’s substantially identical motion to dismiss. Judge Nye’s very thorough review of the law and statements of congressional intent will undoubtedly be helpful to the court hearing KNRC’s case.
We invite you to read the notice of supplemental authority and Judge Nye’s decision.
Activist Groups Issue 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue USFWS for Failure to Issue a 12-month Finding on their Petition to List the Lesser Prairie-Chicken as Threatened or Endangered Under Endangered Species Act
Thursday, February 14, 2019 — Today, The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Defenders of Wildlife (DW), and WildEarth Guardians (WEG) issued a 60-day notice of their intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service USFWS) for failing to issue a 12-month finding on the groups’ 2016 petition to list the Lesser prairie-chicken as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The original 2014 LPC listing was vacated in 2015 by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Permian Basin Petroleum Association v. Department of the Interior. KNRC participated in that suit with an amicus curiae brief.
Instead of appealing the court’s ruling, USFWS filed a motion to amend the judgment asking that instead of vacating the listing, the court retain the ESA protections and remand the listing decision to USFWS for further review. The court rejected that request on February 29, 2016. It took USFWS until July 20, 2016 to formally remove the LPC from the ESA’s list of threatened and endangered species.
The activist groups then petitioned again for listing the LPC on September 8, 2016, triggering a 90-day review that resulted in a finding on November 30, 2016 that listing of the LPC may be warranted. That finding triggered the 12-month review that USFWS has still not completed.
Upon completion of the 60-day waiting period, the petitioning groups may initiate their intended lawsuit against USFWS, unless the agency remedies the groups’ complaints against it.
Click here for The Center for Biological Diversity’s press release publicly announcing the groups’ notice of intent to sue.
Click here for the groups’ notice of intent to sue letter.