Energy & Environment

Obama aims to save chickens, limit humans

Obama aims to save chickens, limit humans

The Obama administration has initiated a plan to declare the lesser prairie chicken a threatened species, citing its imperiled habitat—which happens to cross states throughout the nation’s oil and gas belt.

Despite ongoing efforts in the affected states to avoid the listing by spending $50 million to preserve the habitat, the Interior Department is collecting public comments and will hold hearings in February.

“We are encouraged by current multi-state efforts to conserve the lesser prairie chicken and its habitat, but more work needs to be done to reverse its decline,” said Dan Ashe, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency leading the effort at the Interior Department.

Energy production disrupted

Placement of the small grouse on the Endangered Species List affects Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas, where it could significantly disrupt energy production and farming, said Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

“The Obama administration’s proposed listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species could have potentially devastating job and economic impacts,” Hastings said.

Daniel Kish, senior vice president of policy for the Institute for Energy Research said the full impact on energy production is relatively unknown, “but it cannot be positive.”

“Under these policies, the most endangered species in the United States could become American workers,” Kish said.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America also opposes the action and says the administration’s plan begins a dangerous precedent for future energy production, economic growth and working conservation efforts.

“America’s heartland is flourishing due to oil and natural gas development in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico,” the association said in a statement.

“It is no accident that the anti-development movement is pressing to list a species in this resource-rich region. It is an increasingly used tactic by environmental groups to manipulate (the Endangered Species Act) in order to discourage growth. If the lesser prairie chicken is listed as endangered, this encouraging growth will be in jeopardy as energy development—in fact, all kinds of development—could be stopped in its tracks,” the association said.

The listing consideration is part of a court settlement between the federal government and environmental groups.

“By caving to environmental pressures, the Obama administration is sending a signal to American business,” the petroleum association said. “In the midst of a battered economy, the Obama administration has chosen to show hostility to economic growth, instead of the encouragement for job creation and energy development that President Obama promised in his campaign.”

Hastings said the proposed listing is a prime example of how the process is being driving by litigation instead of science. “Closed-door negotiations with high-paid lawyers whose fees are being subsidized by American taxpayers are not the proper way to make decisions on species listings and set a dangerous precedent that will have widespread impacts on job creation, economic growth and energy security,” Hastings said.

However, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said he is hopeful the costly preventative measures states have already taken will prompt federal officials to deny the listing.

“A proposed listing as ‘threatened’ is the best possible outcome at this time because it brings us one step closer to achieving a ‘not-warranted’ decision in the coming months,” Inhofe said.

NOAA to add coral to ESA

The Obama administration has proposed adding 66 coral species in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea to the Endangered Species List citing the dangers of global warming and ocean acidification.

“Corals provide habitat to support fisheries that feed millions of people; generate jobs and income to local economies through recreation, tourism, and fisheries; and protect coastlines from storms and erosion,” said Jane Lubchenco, undersecretary for commerce for oceans and atmosphere at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Yet, scientific research indicates that climate change and other activities are putting these corals at risk. This is an important, sensible next step toward preserving the benefits provided by these species, both now and into the future,” Lubchenco said.

The federal agency cited an unnamed study that said coral reefs contribute $483 million annually to the U.S. economy through tourism and recreation activities and another $1.1 billion in goods and services. The oceanic administration estimates the commercial value of coral reefs at $100 million, and another $100 million is earned annually from recreational fishing.

It is not yet known what the economic impact will be from the listing or forthcoming critical habitat designations.

However, Human Events reported in April that federal efforts to create a marine reserve zone in Florida’s Biscayne National Park to protect coral there would close a vast swath of the bay to boating and fishing. The announcement did not address how boat traffic in the Pacific and Caribbean areas would be affected but suggested fishing would not be limited.

The final listing is expected to be completed late next year after public comment is received and more than a dozen hearings are held.

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