Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Judge upholds ruling vacating lesser prairie chicken listing

By Mella McEwen | 0 comments Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Junell on Monday upheld his September 2015 ruling overturning the listing of the lesser prairie chicken as “threatened.” The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas denied a motion by the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to amend Junell’s original judgme, according to a press release from the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. After he vacated the listing, the agencies appealed, asking that the decision be remanded to the Fish and Wildlife Service or that the judge’s ruling be limited to the Permian Basin. The Permian Basin Petroleum Association, along with Chaves, Eddy, Lea and Roosevelt counties in New Mexico, had sued the agencies after the listing. In response to the court’s ruling Monday, PBPA President Ben Shepperd issued the following statement: “The PBPA applauds Judge Junell’s denial of the Motion made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior. This ruling serves as vindication of the unprecedented stakeholder participation across the lesser prairie chicken range.” The association also applauded the decision. The association is responsible for implementing the LPC Range-wide Conservation Plan. Under this plan, more than 180 oil and gas, pipeline, electric transmission and wind energy companies have enrolled in conservation agreements to avoid, minimize, or mitigate their operations’ impact on the chicken. In the process, these companies have committed $45.9 million in enrollment and impact fees to cover off-site mitigation actions for unavoidable impacts and which contributes to habitat conservation. The chicken’s population increased 25 percent from 2014 to 2015, in part as a result of industry’s conservation efforts. More than 101,000 acres of farm and ranch land have been enrolled in 10-year agreements, and an additional 1,600 acres have been enrolled in permanent conservation to offset industry impact.

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