Pruitt: Devastating combination (Endangered Species Act)

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Pruitt: Devastating combination

Scott Pruitt

Scott Pruitt

On Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service caved to a sue-and-settle-induced deadline and decided to list the lesser prairie chicken as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The decision will have dire consequences for economic development and private property rights while providing no additional protection for the lesser prairie chicken.

The bird’s prominence in national headlines is the product of two secretly negotiated settlements in 2011 between the FWS and like-minded environmental groups. The settlements are a win for anti-development crusaders because they bypass statutorily required ESA procedures and fast-track the ESA listing process. The agreements with these special interest groups require the FWS to complete listing decisions for the lesser prairie chicken and nearly 300 additional species within the span of only a few short years. To put these ESA-related sue-and-settle abuses in proper perspective, between 1994 and 2006, anti-development groups petitioned the FWS to list an average of 20 species per year. Since 2007, however, the FWS has received petitions to list more than 1,250 species – roughly the same number of species that have been listed over the past 30 years.

Oklahoma has diligently worked with other states, industry and stakeholders to protect the bird and has spent $26 million to develop a voluntary and comprehensive conservation plan. Yet those efforts are now undone – without any input from the state or other stakeholders – because of the arbitrary and aggressive listing decision deadlines imposed by the secret agreement between the FWS and an environmental group.
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