In a lawsuit filed April 25 in Federal District Court in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Arkansas River Shiner Coalition challenges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) designation of critical habitat for the small two inch minnow.
“We believe the Fish and Wildlife Service has violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to conduct a proper economic analysis,” said Steve Kouplen, Oklahoma Farm Bureau president and coalition member. “The Service is basically saying there is no economic impact from designating critical habitat for the shiner. We believe quite the opposite is true.”
About 98 percent of the total “critical habitat” area is held in private ownership. Habitat designation could restrict land use in the listed areas. The coalition represents thousands of farmers, ranchers and other landowners affected by the designation. Lawyers for the coalition are Michael Klien and Craig Douglas of Smith, Roberts, Elliott and Glenn in Austin, Texas.
The Service has listed areas of critical habitat for the Arkansas River Shiner in the four states comprising the Arkansas River Basin. This follows an earlier designation of the shiner as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. The designation applies to portions of the Cimarron River in Oklahoma and Kansas, the Beaver/North Canadian River in Oklahoma, the Canadian/South Canadian River in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas, and the Arkansas River in Kansas.
“We have repeatedly said the government has failed to follow its own definition for critical habitat and has failed to use adequate scientific and economic evidence,” Kouplen said.
Included as defendants in the lawsuit are Gale Norton, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and Steve Williams, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The coalition consists of: New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Kansas Farm Bureau, Canadian River Municipal Water Authority, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, High Plains Underground Water Conservation District #1, Environmental Federation of Oklahoma, ProAg of Oklahoma, Settlers Ditch Co., Oklahoma Farmers Union, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Hitch Enterprises, Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District, Kansas Livestock Association, North Plains Underground Water Conservation District and Oklahoma Panhandle Irrigation and Agriculture Association. The coalitions efforts are being coordinated through the Oklahoma Agricultural Legal Foundation. For information please contact Harlan Hentges, Director of the Oklahoma Agricultural Legal Foundation, (405) 523-2501, 2501 N. Stiles, OKC, OK 73105, Harlan_Hentges@okfb.com.