The PJ Tatler

New Mexicans Rally to Stop Listing of Chicken as Threatened

While President Obama was unveiling plans last night he claims will result in job creation, hundreds of New Mexicans were protesting in Roswell last night against an Endangered Species Act listing that is expected to cost jobs and state funding.

At the end of November, Fish and Wildlife said it would make the threatened-species determination about the lesser prairie-chicken“on the best available science,” though the proposal was opened for a 90-day public comment period.

“New Mexicans have worked hard to protect this and other species.  Today, we’re here to make sure Washington remembers the people,” Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) said at the rally.

“A federal listing would affect people throughout the state,” he continued. “People from Santa Fe to Albuquerque to Las Cruces rely upon our strong energy economy, as well as the billion dollars it provides to the state every year—nearly half a billion for education alone.  If the chicken is listed, it will send shockwaves through the economy and infrastructure of our entire state, affecting teachers and communities from Lordsburg to Mora.”

Pearce said the Interior Department has ignored locally initiated “landmark conservation agreements” in favor of a broad federal brush.

After the rally, participants marched to the local public hearing held by Fish and Wildlife. Pearce ditched Obama’s speech to go to the hearing.

The chicken was first plucked out of the crop of species potentially needing protection by the ESA in 1998. The state of Colorado has already listed the species as threatened.

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.

“With the recent drought, farmers and ranchers are struggling to turn enough of a profit to keep up with rising production costs,” said Ryan Best of Portales, N.M., national president of Future Farmers of America. “We cannot continue to do our job if regulations continue to be introduced limiting our ability to carry out our profession. Agriculturists have an inborn fondness for caring for the needs of others. Our work reflects that. We consistently produce enough food to feed a growing world. The ability to do so becomes more and more hampered with the introduction of regulations such as the listing of the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act, which will ultimately affect future agriculturalists’ ability to continue to produce food, feed, and fiber efficiently.”

“The lesser prairie-chicken will disappear forever without protection of the Endangered Species Act,” said Jay Lininger, an ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Voluntary measures that preserve a little habitat are convenient for some, but they won’t be effective for the prairie-chicken.”