“This proposal is motivated by politics and has no place in how we handle our nation’s wildlife,” mentioned Marshall Johnson, chief conservation officer, Nationwide Audubon Society. “Congress mustn’t let politics intrude the place science is evident. This fowl will vanish from our grasslands with out these obligatory protections.”
The US Home Pure Assets Committee voted final week to make use of the Congressional Evaluation Act to reverse a November 2022 choice by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to checklist the Lesser Prairie-Hen underneath the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The committee additionally handed two different resolutions, Home Joint Resolutions 46 and 49, which additionally use the Congressional Evaluation Act to undermine science-based conservation selections underneath the ESA. These resolutions will transfer subsequent to the complete Home for a vote, which can be held this week.
Since formal nationwide fowl monitoring started within the Nineteen Sixties, Lesser Prairie-Hen populations have declined by 97 p.c throughout their vary. This decline is without doubt one of the most precipitous amongst all fowl life within the U.S. and can finally result in extinction if not addressed.
“We’re working out of time to save the Lesser Prairie-Hen from extinction,” mentioned Jon Hayes, government director of Audubon Southwest and vice chairman on the Nationwide Audubon Society. “For years, landowners, group leaders, and conservationists have tried voluntary measures to keep away from itemizing, however the science has made it clear that our greatest efforts weren’t sufficient.”
The Lesser Prairie-Hen was first proposed for ESA itemizing in 1995. Since then, the fowl has been by way of a curler coaster of itemizing selections, court docket orders, and failed restoration efforts, all whereas the populations proceed to plummet. The species is managed individually within the northern and southern components of its vary, which incorporates parts of 5 states (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico).
“These resolutions set a harmful precedent for wildlife safety and trample on an actual alternative to reveal how we are able to save a species whereas bolstering rural economies,” mentioned Johnson.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has labored to make sure flexibility for landowners and land managers by providing regulatory certainty by way of voluntary packages for agriculture and sustainable ranching.
“New federal investments and incentives for landowners ensuing from Lesser Prairie-Hen itemizing will make our grassland more healthy, enhance the infiltration of groundwater, sequester carbon, and make the rangeland extra resilient total,” added Hayes. “Cows want the identical wholesome grass and soils birds do.”
The FWS has additionally taken steps to create an Incidental Take Allow that power firms can apply for, permitting them to mitigate their predicted affect by restoring and defending the Lesser Prairie-Hen habitat. This concept of “conservation banking” may show to be a path ahead that can assist to guard the fowl whereas additionally accommodating the wants of business.
Audubon’s Conservation Ranching program helps market incentives for ranchers that handle their rangeland for fowl habitat. Partnerships like this present a win-win resolution for birds, just like the Lesser Prairie-Hen, and beef producers.
Learn extra from Jon Hayes: Collectively we are able to save the Lesser Prairie-Hen
Because of the Nationwide Audubon Society for offering this information.