WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration is placing the lesser prairie chicken on a list of threatened species.
The move could affect oil and gas drilling, wind farms and other activities in five central and southwestern states.
The decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service is a step below "endangered" status and allows for more flexibility in how the protections for the bird will be carried out under the Endangered Species Act.
The announcement is expected Thursday. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the listing decision in advance.
The wildlife agency's director says he knows the decision will be unpopular with governors in the five affected states but that the bird is "in dire straits" and needs help.
The states are Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico.
U.S. Senator John Cornyn has already sent out a statement about the decision saying, "Today’s decision, which has real-world consequences for Texas families, landowners and businesses, is a missed opportunity to acknowledge Texans’ unprecedented conservation efforts. I will continue to fight to reform this process so job creators and local officials have a say. I’m disappointed the Obama Administration made this decision based on arbitrary deadlines set in a closed-door meeting, ignoring the ongoing efforts by Texas landowners and businesses.”
Congressman Mike Conaway has also released a statement, "I am disappointed in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Director Ashe had the opportunity to build a new model of cooperative conservation and he failed. The purpose of the range wide plan was to preclude a listing. It was to show that a voluntary, stakeholder process could preserved the Lesser Prairie Chicken. Stakeholders deserved the opportunity to see if their efforts would be successful. The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the oil and gas industry, and farmers and ranchers did an incredible job of putting together a Range-Wide Conservation Plan, only to have Director Ashe disregard the potential of voluntary efforts to preserve the Lesser Prairie Chicken. As of March 21, 2014, nearly 4 million acres of land had been enrolled in the plan and more than $26 million in non-federal money had been committed. Today’s decision to list the Lesser Prairie Chicken as threatened certainly does not encourage an atmosphere of trust and cooperation.”