The Lesser Praire Chicken’s Impact on Texas Oil

More Than One-Hundred Species in Texas Are Proposed for Listing in The Next Three Years - Craddick
Lesser Praire Chicken

Lesser Praire Chicken | Click to Enlarge

In late March 2014, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFW) listed the lesser praire chicken as threatened under the endangered species act (ESA), much to the dismay of the oil and gas industry. In Texas, the species is concentrated in the western portion of the state and in the Panhandle.

The lesser praire chicken’s new designation will impact a five-state area, and according to USFW, 3-million acres of land have already been enrolled in targeted conservation plans. Although the species’ new designation doesn’t take control out of the states’ hands completely, it does shift the balance of power to the federal government. Under special Rule 4(d) of the ESA, states’ will be allowed to continue managing conservation efforts for the species and avoid further regulation of activities such as oil and gas development and utility line maintenance.

USFW Director Dan Ashe, said in a statement, “the lesser praire chicken is in dire straits. To date, we understand that oil and gas companies, ranchers and other landowners have signed up over 3 million acres of land for participation in the states’ range-wide conservation plan and the NRCS’ Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative. We expect these plans to work for business, landowners and the conservation of prairie-chickens.”

Legislation designed to fight alleged abuse of the ESA has been proposed by multiple lawmakers across the country. The State of Kansas and Oklahoma have both filed lawsuits against the federal designation of the lesser praire chicken.

Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick sounded off about the USFW’s decision, saying, “this kind of federal intrusion creates unworkable difficulties for Texas businesses and landowners. The result will undoubtedly impact Texas energy production in the chicken’s range area throughout the Panhandle and in the heart of the Permian Basin, with damaging effects on operators who produce more than one-third of this nation’s crude oil.” According to Craddick, there are more than one-hundred species in Texas proposed for listing in the next three years.

Depending on a species’ habitat, the Eagle Ford Shale could be impacted if the USFW designates an animal native to South Texas as threatened or endangered. Any new ESA designations in South Texas could potentially have an impact on the lucrative play.



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Kirk Eggleston

Kirk Eggleston

Contributor at
Kirk Eggleston writes on significant news developments in the Eagle Ford and Bakken Shale plays. He is a former broadcast journalist, and has experience covering news and politics in the Texas and Louisiana markets.


  1. Patrick Larkin says:

    Although the quote from the RRC Commissioner implies a heavy-handed federal intrusion into land management in the five state area, a prairie chicken Habitat Conservation Plan was developed by the wildlife resource agencies in these states. Participation in the HCP was offered to all landowners and was signed onto by numerous private landowners and E&P companies. The HCP participants are excused from federal habitat controls. The message should be that if we want to keep the feds out of species/habitat preservation, state agencies and stakeholders can and should actively develop alternatives that achieve wildlife habitat protection goals.

  2. Ann McClure says:

    I think that it is not unreasonable to expect the energy companies to comply with the
    Endangered Species Act. After all we humans pretty well dominate the planet.

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