Endangered Species Litigation –
ESA Lesser-Prairie Chicken Listing & Litigation
In 2013 a group of Western-Kansas Counties collaborated to research, prepare and submit comments in response to a Proposal by The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to list the Lesser Prairie-Chicken as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Throughout the USFWS listing and comment process, KNRC was active in identifying and transmitting the technical flaws, procedural oversights and policy issues surrounding the problematic listing process.
As the contentious Rulemaking unfolded, KNRC was astonished at the procedural oversights, scientific bias, disdain for local Conservation Programs and the overall lack of concern for the safety and economic well-being of citizens in the region – issues documented by KNRC in its Finding of Fact and Conclusions of Law Report from a two-day Public Hearing.
As the listing process progressed, it became evident USFWS was not interested in fulfilling its duty under ESA, but instead wanted to create a cap-and-trade style, fund-raising apparatus through Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Using “conservation” of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken as a platform, WAFWA, through five regional state agencies, concocted and promoted its Range Wide Conservation Plan for the Lesser Prairie Chicken (RWCP) a tool purported to protect industry while at the same time providing monies for conservation activities.
As of January, 2016 the RWCP has done neither; what it has done is collect tens-of-millions of dollars from the oil, gas, wind, and electric-utility industries for Conservation activities using a complex, mitigation-for-permit system that leaves energy companies vulnerable to 3rd-party lawsuits.
In the end, USFWS proceeded with its predetermined listing of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken despite region-wide conservation efforts, data to the contrary, flawed range-wide science, a lack of an Environmental Assessment or an Environmental Impact Statement, fervent disagreement from State Wildlife Agencies and USDA NRCS.
On September 1, 2015 the the Federal District Court in the Western District of Texas rightly vacated the flawed Lesser Prairie-Chicken Rule, citing Administrative Procedure Act violations. KNRC contributed to information through filing of an Amicus Curiae Brief.