Despite resistance from various groups, the lesser prairie chicken has officially been relisted on the Endangered Species List. The northern distinct population, which includes birds in Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, and portions of the Texas Panhandle, will be listed as “threatened,” while the southern distinct population, which includes birds in New Mexico and portions of Texas, will be listed as “endangered.”
The listing was previously set to take effect at the end of January, but due to pressure on the Biden Administration from National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and its allies in Congress, the rule was delayed until March 27.
This week, Texas Attorney General Paxton became the latest party to file a lawsuit against Biden’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Department of the Interior to challenge the federal government’s listing of the species. Prior to filing the lawsuit, Attorney General Paxton issued a Notice of Intent to begin the process of suing the Biden Administration.
“Under President Joe Biden, the executive branch has instituted a number of arbitrary policy changes intended to reduce states’ autonomy and undermine energy development. This rule is no different,” said Attorney General Paxton. “The lesser prairie chicken’s change in classification puts many of Texas’s conservation efforts at risk, all while bringing immeasurable harm to Texans’ property rights. My lawsuit aims to preserve both individual and states’ rights that are threatened by this rule and stop this Biden Administration policy in its tracks.”
In January, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), along with Permian Basin Petroleum Association, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Kansas Livestock Association, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, and New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, filed a Notice of Intent to sue the Department of the Interior and the FWS over the listing.
The Biden Administration’s decision to list the lesser prairie chicken as “threatened” and “endangered” would force property owners to comply with new federal regulations wherever the chickens are present. Emblematic of the Biden Administration’s disregard for states’ rights, individual liberty, and federal laws designed to prevent this sort of infringement, the listing changes were made unlawfully, Attorney General Paxton stated.
Among the laws broken by the new classifications are the Endangered Species Act, Administrative Procedure Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act, each of which require the federal government to extensively consider numerous factors before changes to listings are made. Neither these important factors, nor the conservation efforts of Texas, other states, and various private actors, were considered, Paxton noted.
NCBA has argued that the lesser prairie chicken only survives today because of the voluntary conservation efforts of ranchers. In fact, NCBA Associate Director of Government Affairs Sigrid Johannes explained that science has proven repeatedly that healthy, diverse rangelands—like those cultivated by livestock grazing—are where the lesser prairie chicken thrives.
“There are numerous places where this listing goes seriously wrong and we are defending cattle producers against this overreaching, unscientific rule,” the groups said when it filed the lawsuit in January.