Lesser Prairie Chicken removed from threatened species list, PBPA speaks out

Lesser Prairie Chicken removed from threatened species list, PBPA speaks out

(KWES) - The Lesser Prairie Chicken was put on the threatened species list in 2014, affecting the the oil and gas industry here in the Permian Basin. On Tuesday, the bird was formally removed but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says they will continue their conservation efforts.

"We are definitely not giving up on the species," said Lesli Gray with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The oil and gas industry in the Permian Basin is celebrating a victory. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fulfilled a court ruling to remove the Lesser Prairie Chicken from the Federal list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.

"It was an attempt to limit oil and gas development around the country but especially in the Permian Basin. It would have added additional federal oversight and increased costs and delay in permitting," said Ben Shepperd, President of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association (PBPA).

The removal of the bird comes after the PBPA filed suit against the agency. A ruling in September 2015 sided with the oil and gas industry finding that the agency failed to make a proper evaluation of the conservation plan.

"It's a species of concern now. It's not a listed species," said Gray. "There are a number of conservation activities that are on going that we are going to continue to support obviously."

Under the range-wide conservation plan, more than 180 oil and gas, electric transmission, wind energy and pipeline companies collectively committed $45.9 million to conservation efforts.

"We will continue to work to make sure that our industry can continue to operate right along side our flora and fauna in the Permian Basin," said Shepperd.

The range wide-plan resulted in a 25 percent increase in the lesser prairie chicken's population from 2014 to 2015.

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