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.