Meeting to shed light on lesser prairie chicken

For those still in the dark about what the lesser prairie chicken is or why its existence is important, there is a community meeting Tuesday.

The bird has been at the center of controversy since 1998 after it was identified as a candidate for federal listing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a federal organization tasked with wildlife preservation.

In recent months the chicken, native to New Mexico and four other states and known for its bizarre mating rituals, has been under consideration to be listed as "threatened" on the USFWS federal register of endangered species. The USFWS is slated to make its decision in September on whether to list the bird.

This concerns local landowners as well as the oil and gas industry. They fear the bird's listing will bring an onslaught of rules and regulations. They also criticize the listing of the species as the protection of one bird for what could cost of thousands of jobs and economic prosperity.

Curry County Commissioner Wendell Bostwick said Tuesday's meeting will be informational.

"It's a knowledge meeting of people that have been through the (potential listing) process with other species," Bostwick said. "We're going to have people here tell what they did in these other states, through coordination with (USFWS) and other states to address the issues and challenges of a listing for endangered species."

In an effort to convince the USFWS that a threatened listing is not needed for the lesser prairie chicken, the New Mexico Game and Fish Department teamed up with the other four states affected by the potential listing to create a plan that outlines conservation efforts while allowing business to grow.

The USFWS is currently reviewing the range-wide, five-state plan and conservation agreements that landowners have signed.

Bostwick sees those as good steps toward a positive outcome in September but he's also hoping steady attendance at informational meetings show the USFWS and Congress the community is consistent in its efforts to preserve the bird and keep it off the list.

"The biggest thing is we need good representation," Bostwick said. "If we have a good turnout, it becomes more relevant to our congressional delegation. It's just imperative that we have good turnouts."

Although he says it isn't likely, Bostwick says there is a desire for a split-listing, which means the bird would only be listed in some of the states it occupies.

Bostwick feels New Mexico has put forth a strong effort in the fight to keep the bird from being listed, and other states don't compare to the challenges New Mexico faces.

"We don't get the rain that Oklahoma does and we don't get things that Texas has," Bostwick said.

Fast facts

What: Lesser prairie chicken informational meeting

When: 1:30 p.m., Tuesday

Where: Clovis-Carver Library's North Annex

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