On Jan. 24, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) announced it has filed a notice of intent to sue the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) over the listing of the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act.

Woolsey cassidy
Editor / Progressive Cattle

The announcement came after the FWS in November established two distinct population segments (DPS) for the species: The northern DPS inhabits the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado and will be listed as threatened, while the southern DPS, located in west Texas and New Mexico, will be listed as endangered.

“The lesser prairie chicken only survives today because of the voluntary conservation efforts of ranchers,” said Sigrid Johannes, NCBA associate director of government affairs. “The science has proven repeatedly that healthy, diverse rangelands – like those cultivated by livestock grazing – are where the lesser prairie chicken thrives. There are numerous places where this listing goes seriously wrong, and we are defending cattle producers against this overreaching, unscientific rule.”

While the rule recognizes “the value that livestock grazing provides when managed compatibly,” it also creates a site-specific grazing plan ranchers must follow developed by a “service-approved party.”

“This 4(d) rule would allow environmental activist groups to become ‘grazing police’ over cattle producers. Designing a third-party verification system puts political priorities over sound science and empowers distant bureaucrats over land managers and producers with decades of experience,” said Johannes.

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The notice of intent to sue is the first step in court toward NCBA’s effort to overturn the listing and revoke the FWS’s final rule for both the northern and southern DPS. The rule was set to take effect Jan. 24, but it has since been delayed until March 27.