A new coalition is fighting to defend the rural way of life and economic prosperity in five states.
The coalition, comprised of the Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Corn Growers Association, Texas Farm Bureau, The American Farm Bureau Federation, New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau and Colorado Farm Bureau, opposes The Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and WildEarth Guardians’ request that the lesser prairie chicken (LPC) be listed as an “endangered” species. The bird is currently listed as “threatened.” The LPC range is roughly 20 million acres, affecting 85 counties in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado.
“We are already seeing impacts from the ‘threatened’ listing,” said Jim Sipes, who farms near the primary habitat area. “We have seen wind generator projects leave the area. We have seen oil and gas companies pull out of the region. We have seen seismograph crews stopping seismograph work, and we are seeing effects on farms and ranches through the amount of grazing we are able to do.”
The threat from an “endangered” designation reaches far beyond the farm gate to rural Main Street and local government.
“In our small communities, businesses on Main Street depend on farmers and ranchers,” said Marieta Hauser, an economic development administrator and rural Chamber of Commerce official. “If we don’t stop excessive regulations on farmers and ranchers, more and more often what you are going to see on Main Street in rural America is a ‘Going Out of Business’ sign. If farmers and ranchers don’t have money to spend, our main street businesses will not be able to survive. It’s that important.”
County commissioner Mick MacNair, who lives in the habitat area, is concerned that with a more restrictive designation of the LPC comes lower property values. With less oil, gas, and renewable energy development, the tax base reduction would be disastrous.
“How we are going to fund our county roads and keep them maintained? How are we going to fund our local police departments? How are we going to fund our EMS and fire departments?” MacNair asks. “These are essential government entities. With the loss of revenue this will cost us, we have some very grave concerns.”
The coalition has created a website to provide detailed information on the issue and the progress of a lawsuit opposing the listing. Users are also urged to donate to the legal fund to defer the cost of litigation. The site is www.stopfowlplay.com. You can also follow the coalition activity on Twitter and Facebook at @StopFowlPlay and Facebook.com/StopFowlPlay. Look for the hashtag #StopFowlPlay.