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Administration Plays Chicken with Jobs and Energy

The grouse is endangered by grazing livestock infringing on its habitat, agriculture, oil and gas extraction, herbicides, wildfires and controlled burns, drought, and "habitat fragmentation" from fences and power lines, according to environmentalists. Roads, mining, wind energy production, and mating in Kansas with the greater prairie-chickens are also cited as affecting the bird. The Audubon Society cites high mortality rates in Oklahoma and New Mexico from "fence collisions," and "reduced reproductive success" from "tall structures" on prairie land.

The Interior Department has also been wanting to turn the Lesser Prairie Chicken Preserve about 50 miles east of Roswell in New Mexico into a national monument.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said listing the chicken "could have potentially devastating job and economic impacts."

"Energy projects, including renewable wind energy, would be placed in jeopardy, facing inevitable delay and uncertainty due to new layers of regulatory red tape," Hastings said. "The proposed listing also ignores the $50 million in habitat protection activities that states have invested over the past several years for the lesser prairie-chicken and creates a disincentive for future cooperative species recovery."

"This proposed listing is a prime example of how the ESA is being driven by litigation instead of science. The Lesser Prairie Chicken was one of hundreds of species included in a settlement agreement between the Department of the Interior and litigious environmental organizations," the chairman continued. "Closed-door negotiations with high-paid lawyers whose fees are being subsidized by American taxpayers are not the proper way to make decisions on species listings and set a dangerous precedent that will have widespread impacts on job creation, economic growth and energy security."

The Institute for Energy Research called today's action "the latest example of the consequences of the Obama administration's 'sue and settle' strategy, in which the administration and special interest groups negotiate friendly settlements that give both parties what they want."

In fact, the chicken is but one of 250 species that will be reviewed for listing under the ESA, as agreed to in the settlement.

"Multiply today's action by 250, and it is easy to get the sense that the president's 'all of the above' energy plan is empty rhetoric," said IER Senior Vice President for Policy Daniel Kish. "Under these policies, the most endangered species in the United States could become American jobs."

“I am confident that the Fish and Wildlife Service has learned through the dunes sagebrush lizard case that New Mexico successfully protects our species through local, state and regional agreements," Pearce said. "I have always supported these conservation efforts, and I will continue to hold the Fish and Wildlife Service accountable to allow a balanced, local approach that protects the species without threatening New Mexico’s jobs.”