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NCBA anticipates issues with lesser prairie chicken listing

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State and regional cattle groups, along with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, are suing the Biden administration over the lesser prairie chicken endangered species listing proposal. NCBA Associate Director for Governmental Affairs Sigrid Johannes said the proposal will create complications for the beef industry.

“First and foremost, the numbers of lesser prairie chickens that are out there thriving on rangeland at every different life stage that they go through are thriving in pasture, in the same sort of rangelands and varying diverse grasslands that are cultivated by cattle producers,” Johannes said. “They don’t live in cropland; they don’t live in those very uniform grasslands. They gravitate to those areas where cattle producers are actively working to cultivate a profile of vegetation that is beneficial not just to livestock but the lesser prairie chicken and a great many other wildlife species.”

Johannes said the NCBA is also concerned with the way the listing was written and the dangerous precedent that this listing could set for other bird species, such as the sage-grouse.

“We think this line between the Northern distinct population segment and the Southern distinct population segment is pretty arbitrary,” Johannes said. “There is not a whole lot of genomic or geospatial evidence to support the division of those two groups of birds. And second of all, the 4(d) rule that’s been written for the Northern DPS is hugely overreaching and really poses a lot of concerns for us about the power that Fish and Wildlife is giving away to third parties to oversee the way that private landowners graze on their ranches in those states.”

The 4(d) rules generally allow for industries like agriculture to continue their normal activities within reason where there might be a habitat for a listed species, but Johannes said this 4(d) rule does the opposite.

“It does not really help cattle producers comply with the listing, and it puts an unnecessary level of restriction on their day-to-day operations,” Johannes said. “This particular rule is saying that you will not qualify for those legal protections that the 4(d) rule is designed to provide- that is the purpose of this- you will not get those protections unless you are following a grazing management plan that has been approved by a third- party.”

For more information, visit ncba.org.