US Senate rejects amendment on lesser prairie chicken

(AP Photo/Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Jon McRoberts)

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The U.S. Senate rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas that would have removed the lesser prairie chicken from the federal government’s threatened species list.

The vote Wednesday on Moran’s amendment was 54-44, short of the 60 votes necessary to add it to a bill intended to expedite construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, The Kansas City Star reported.

Moran said Wednesday that listing the lesser prairie chicken as threatened jeopardizes the agriculture and energy industries in Kansas and four other states where the bird lives.

“There are ways to conserve the species without hindering economic development in rural communities, and I will continue to push for this straightforward, simple solution,” Moran said.

The lesser prairie chicken, a species of grouse with feathered feet and striped plumage, lives primarily in Kansas but also in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado. The bird once was plentiful in the Great Plains, but its habitat has shrunk by more than 80 percent since the 1800s.

The bird was designated as threatened last year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, one step beneath endangered status under the Endangered Species Act. That means federal officials think the bird soon will be in danger of extinction.

In 2013, the lesser prairie chicken’s population hit a record low of 17,616, about half of what it was in 2012, the wildlife service said.

Moran said federal officials underestimated the bird’s population after a historic drought hit its habitat. With drought conditions easing, the lesser prairie chicken’s numbers already have increased by 20 percent, he said.

“Yet a number of industries — farming, ranching, oil and gas development, transportation and wind energy — continue to feel the effects as the federal government attempts to dictate how individuals manage their land and resources,” Moran said.

The senator said he probably will try to add the amendment as a policy rider to an appropriations bill later this year.

 

 

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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