The following article is an opinion piece written by OKFB President Tom Buchanan that was used in The Journal Record regarding the listing of the lesser prairie chicken.
Oklahoma Farm Bureau members are disappointed with a March 27 announcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species. This was done under a sue-and-settle-induced deadline involving the Endangered Species Act. The premature and indefensible decision unduly harms landowners and business interests in Oklahoma and circumvents ESA procedures that are required by statute.
For the past several years, the farm bureau has been working with the state, private landowners and a coalition of Oklahoma’s oil and gas, transmission, wind energy and transportation industries to protect the lesser prairie chicken and avoid an ESA listing. In March 2013, the FWS approved the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, or CCAA, for the lesser prairie chicken on agricultural lands. Farmers and ranchers have been working hard to implement best practices to protect the lesser prairie chicken on their properties.
The listing will impose unnecessary federal restrictions on agricultural producers, limiting their rights to develop their private properties. We believe a partnership between private landowners and state agencies is a more appropriate avenue to not only protect the bird, but also allow Oklahomans to continue taking care of Oklahoma.
We are concerned federal agencies are routinely yielding to the demands of special interest groups that increasingly use sue-and-settle tactics as a means of fast-tracking the ESA listing process. Environmental organizations were involved in two closed-door settlements with FWS in 2011. Among other things, these settlements truncated allotted time for the FWS to complete a listing decision for the lesser prairie chicken. This prevented the state and landowners from adequately implementing the CCAA and demonstrating its proven ability to protect the bird.
We cannot allow sue and settle to become cliché – it’s a crime. In an effort to put an end to the abuse and reinstate the proper procedures for ESA listing decisions, the state filed a lawsuit against FWS and the U.S. Department of the Interior on March 17. On Tuesday, the farm bureau joined the lawsuit. The bureau is proud to support Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt in his fight to defend Oklahomans’ private property rights.
Tom Buchanan is president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau.