NCBA, ag groups file suit over lesser prairie chicken on ESA

Several agricultural groups have filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration for placing the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act.

Sigrid Johannes, Associate Director of Government Affairs with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, says farmers and ranchers have already implemented voluntarily conservation practices to protect the bird. “The goals in many ways for the bird and rancher are closely aligned, and we think that work should continue.  We want to get it overturned because we think this is fundamentally misguided if your overall goal is conservation of the species, this is not the way to do it.”

Earlier this week, NCBA and others filed a Notice of Intent to sue the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in the District Court for the Western District of Texas.  The groups would like to have the final rule revoked for the Northern and Southern Distinct Population Segments.

Johannes says another issue is the 4D rule for the Northern Distinct Population, where producers can only qualify for protection if a grazing plan is approved by a third party. “That list of third parties is still a pretty big question mark. Fish and Wildlife hasn’t told us exactly who that is going to be.  We don’t know who that is going to be.  That opens the door to abuses of power and government overreach, frankly.”

She says the rule muddies the waters for producers and it needs to be revoked. “How can I be incompliance the law? How can I make sure that I’m not opening my ranch up to legal liability? What kind of civil or criminal penalties are going to happen to me if I’m in the Northern DPS and I have incidental take of the bird?”

NCBA was joined by Permian Basin Petroleum Association along with the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Kansas Livestock Association, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, and New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association.

Part of the Congressional delegation from Kansas has sent a letter to USFWS asking the agency to delay the rule, with hopes that it will ultimately be rescinded. 

Other consignors include: Senators James Lankford (OK), and Markwayne Mullin (OK), along with Representatives August Pfluger (TX-11), Stephanie Bice (OK-05), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Ronny Jackson (TX-13), Frank D. Lucas (OK-03), and Tom Cole (OK-04).

Sigrid Johannes with NCBA:

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