The Trouble with Birds - NCBA's Ethan Lane Briefs Ron Hays on the Lesser Prairie Chicken IssueThu, 02 Feb 2017 14:29:05 CST
Until recently, Oklahomans were under the impression the threat of adding the Lesser Prairie Chicken to the Endangered Species List, was laid to rest with conservation efforts in place that seem to be yielding positive results. However, the issue has reared its head once again, with the US Fish & Wildlife Service engaging in a new status review of the species. Ethan Lane from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's DC office, works on issues concerning endangered species. Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays caught up with him at the NCBA convention happening this week in Nashville, to get his take on why the Lesser Prairie Chicken is getting so much attention these days.
"It's the species issue that doesn't seem to want to go away," Lane said, explaining the resurgence of action to list this species as endangered after being left alone for some time now. "What seems to be a politically motivated move to bring that species back up at the top of the list - If you're being charitable, probably the most reasonable explanation is the fear of litigation."
Obviously, this is a species that exists in oil and gas country as well as the wind energy and farming and ranching, Lane points out. He asserts that from the perspective of the environmental community that may be hostile to these industries, "the Lesser Prairie Chicken is one of the best weapons you've had over the last few years."
"They're not going to go quietly on this issue and the Fish & Wildlife Service knows they will receive legal pressure if they don't reinitiate the status review of that species," Lane suggested. "If they weren't afraid of that litigation pressure from outside sources, they'd be able to more accurately prioritize those species for review and in that kind of environment we feel like the Lesser Prairie Chicken, in its current state rebounding with a new population survey coming in June, would be lower on that list."
Lane refers to this tactic as "sue and settle," a legal strategy that he says radical environmental groups have mastered. As "litigation factories," he says they can apply enormous legal pressure on agencies and at times even guide policy, through their capability of churning out lawsuits by the dozen. However, regardless of their politics, Lane says the people at Fish & Wildlife are quick to acknowledge critical role livestock grazing and responsible farm and ranch management plays in environmental stewardship. He contends the proof is in the pudding, observing that the Lesser Prairie Chicken population is experiencing massive increases, up to 300 percent in some areas.
Meanwhile, another bird is causing problems for cattlemen - the Black vulture. The population has grown significantly as of late in the Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas region and their interference in cattle herds has caused the loss of enough calves that Lane describes the situation as having reached a critical point.
"It's something we're going to have to take a closer look at with the new administration and talk to them about ways to expand these take permits to make sure that producers can get enough relief on the ground from these birds," Lane said.
Listen to the full conversation between Hays and Lane about the cattle industry's bird problems, by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below.
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