• Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

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Presidential Veto is Last Chance for Lesser Prairie-Chicken Recovery

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President Biden has vetoed a Congressional Review Act resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 9, from overturning protections for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This move comes after both the House and Senate narrowly passed the resolution to end listing of the bird, a once-abundant grassland species whose population has declined by 90 percent since the 1800s.

“Vetoing this harmful resolution is putting the Lesser Prairie-Chicken on a more certain path to recovery,” said Michael J. Parr, President of American Bird Conservancy. “Present-day populations are thought to average a mere 32,000 birds. Every coordinated effort is needed to ensure a safer future for this iconic species.”

In 2022, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) declared a southern subpopulation of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Endangered, while a northern subpopulation was listed as Threatened. The listing came after decades of grassland habitat loss and degradation across the species’ historic range in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. Earlier this year, the resolution to overturn this decision narrowly passed with a 50-48 vote in the Senate and 221-206 vote in the House, instead of allowing the ESA to work as intended.

Lesser Prairie Chicken, copyright Andrew Spencer, from the surfbirds galleries

“Many people have gone to great lengths to prevent the need for Lesser Prairie-Chicken listing, but we believe it will aid in saving this species,” said Steven Riley, Director of Farm Bill Policy at American Bird Conservancy. “Together with ranchers and farmers, our new Bird-Saver conservation initiative will help provide for more high-quality habitat where the birds can successfully breed and rebound.”

Lesser Prairie-Chickens are considered to be an indicator species for healthy grasslands and prairies, making their steep population decline a major concern to conservationists. Grassland birds are the most at-risk group of birds in the U.S., and have collectively declined by more than 50 percent in the past 50 years.

President Biden’s decision to veto will help ensure that USFWS continues to issue similar protections that prevent this and other listed wildlife species from going extinct.