The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and its southwestern regional office based in Albuquerque have listed the lesser prairie chicken (LPC) in New Mexico as “endangered” – and that Endangered Species Act regulation goes into effect on Jan. 24, in just a week.
The ESA is now 50 years old and the law of the land. Oil and gas producers, such renewable energy companies as wind and solar, and transmission companies who bring power to our cities must comply and reduce their impacts on the LPC or face massive fines and potential work stoppages.
There are only about 500 LPCs remaining in New Mexico, down from 1,500 just a year ago, according to species population counts, and dropping tragically from more than 20,000 birds in the mid-1980s. It’s a predictable outcome of overdevelopment and energy extraction without concomitant natural prairie or desert rangeland easements and set-asides. Landowners deserve a market-based rate to protect and restore the areas the LPC and other grassland species need to thrive.