We were disappointed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to list the lesser prairie chicken as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.
We have no desire to see a reduction in the number of these birds. Whether we are talking about land, water or animals, man and industries can’t advance an agenda on the back of environment. But all players in this game know that was not happening here.
We are disappointed that the end result disregarded something that is long gone from politics — compromise. In our view, a perfectly acceptable compromise was on the table, one that had called for 4 million acres enrolled and $21 million raised — thus far — to help conserve the grouse in hopes of preventing the listing. But the federal government said this was not enough.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife refused to consider this conservation plan, which was endorsed by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and instead went for the power grab.
The chicken’s listing is expected to take effect on about May 1, 30 days after publication of the final rule and final special rule in the Federal Register.
“Companies now have 30 additional days to enroll in a Range-wide Conservation Plan or a Candidate Conservation Agreement (in New Mexico),” said Ben Shepperd, president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association. “Everyone with an interest in these areas needs to take a look. We feel they’ll find it more palatable than going to the Fish and Wildlife Service for permission to drill a well.”
In other words, oil companies and others with a stake in the game should take their lumps now.
The rest of our message is this: We must get out of the mindset that there has to be winners or losers. Save that for the political analysts and politicians looking to ride anti-anything waves into office. However, we must be forceful when officials, including politicians and administrations, turn their backs on compromise as was the case here.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife worked toward compromise during the potential listing of the dunes sagebrush lizard. However, it appears that was the exception. Politicians and their agencies have constituencies and special interest groups to answer to, and, in most cases, that means they don’t give an inch. And the environmental lobby has its claws in the current administration.
A more prominent example has been the Obama administration’s cowering to those on the political left when it comes to the Keystone Pipeline. To most people, last week’s listing of the lesser prairie chicken isn’t in the same league, but to people in West Texas, southeastern New Mexico and other regions in a five-state block, this hits close to home.
Make no mistake. The federal government made it harder to do business in our region. We will find a way to move on, but we will file this away for the next time some loose-lipped politician talks about how government gets out of the way of the private sector. Compromise was there for the taking, but the administration had other plans.