The “green lobby’s” tactics in the species-listings campaigns are lacking in transparency, candor, and accountability.
As we have previously reported, in November the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) put forth their proposal that the Lesser Prairie Chicken be listed on the Threatened Species list per the provisions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed listing is the result of a settlement agreement that the FWS entered into on Sept. 9, 2011, with the Center for Biodiversity, an agreement that entails a timeline that calls for the FWS to propose as many as 757 species for listing by 2018. The FWS must reach a final decision on the majority of these species in 2013. The FWS does not have the time or resources to adequately study and use the “best available science” for 757 species (For a map of the LPC’s range, see p.12).
This settlement agreement is similar to the “Sue and Settle” slipperiness that was exposed in a recent op-ed in Forbes, entitled “EPA’s Secret And Costly ‘Sue And Settle’ Collusion With Environmental Organizations.” The article describes it thus: “ ‘Sue and Settle’ practices, sometimes referred to as ‘friendly lawsuits,’ are cozy deals through which far-left radical environmental groups file lawsuits against federal agencies wherein court-ordered “consent decrees” are issued based upon a prearranged settlement agreement they collaboratively craft together in advance behind closed doors. Then, rather than allowing the entire process to play out, the agency being sued settles the lawsuit by agreeing to move forward with the requested action they and the litigants both want.” To make matters worse, the legal bills of the plaintiff are paid by the taxpayers.
What can we do about this? We need our members to make their voices heard in Washington. Several of our members are cooperating with the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) in the upcoming Congressional Call-up in March in Washington, D.C., to let different congressmen and senators know about the Lesser Prairie Chicken and the related abuse of the Endangered Species Act, as well as other issues affecting the oil and gas industry. In addition, the Permian Basin Petroleum Association has been working hard to develop a Candidate Conservation Agreement (CCA) in cooperation with other associations and the state wildlife agencies in the five states that would be affected by the listing.
More than 90 percent of the current habitat of the Lesser Prairie Chicken is on private property. Listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken would have wide-ranging impact on farming and ranching, as well as on oil and gas operations, and on private property rights and state’s rights besides. The five state wildlife agencies have been working together since 2008 trying to head off a need for listing.
There are representatives from more than a dozen oil and gas companies working diligently on a proposed CCA agreement. In addition, we are making a thorough review of the scientific literature to make sure the “best available science” is being used and used accurately. Recent data has been identified that shows the Lesser Prairie Chicken’s population increasing in recent years in spite of the drought. The data reveals inconsistencies in evidence that has been presented by the proponents of the “threatened” status. Likewise, it demonstrates how speculative much of the FWS threat analysis has been. The CCA working group is preparing comments that are due March 11, 2013.
In addition to the Lesser Prairie Chicken, there are six invertebrates that live in springs in Pecos, Reeves, and Jeff Davis Counties that were proposed for listing as endangered last August. If these species are listed, the fallout could lead to significant restrictions on water use from aquifers that feed these springs. This will have drastic impacts on municipalities, agriculture, and oil and gas in this region.