Final Public Hearings to be Held This Week Regarding Lesser Prairie Chicken

Staff Report
NewsWest 9

The oil and gas industry is gearing up for another fight this week against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Final public hearings will be held this week on the agency's proposal to list the Lesser Prairie Chicken as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The move could force the industry to halt or significantly alter their operations to protect the species' dwindling grassland habitat.

This comes after decades of population declines that experts blame in part on the expansion of farms, ranches and energy industry operations across the southwest and other states.

Companies have been developing habitat conservation plans they hope will prevent the agency from listing the bird.

However, advocates for the Lesser Prairie Chicken are concerned the plans wouldn't be enforceable.

A similar scenario played out last year involving the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard but it was never listed as endangered.

The Wildlife Service has public hearings scheduled for Monday night in Lubbock and the last one in Roswell, N.M., is set for Tuesday.