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House votes to de-list lesser prairie chicken as threatened

The U.S. House voted 229 to 190 on Friday morning to de-list the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species.

The vote came on an amendment by Oklahoma Republican Rep. Frank Lucas and the other four Oklahoma members in the House. The vote was mostly along partisan lines.

The amendment was made to the national defense bill.

Lucas, whose district includes much of western Oklahoma, part of the bird’s range, said Friday, “Despite strong conservation efforts in Oklahoma and other range states, the Lesser Prairie Chicken remains on the Endangered Species List.

“Its listing has not only created yet another layer of costs and bureaucracy for farmers and ranchers, but it could also force American military bases to tip toe around a set of dubious regulations. This amendment ensures our military may continue to operate on its own schedule, rather than waiting on approval from an agency bureaucrat."

Oklahoma has two Air Force bases in western Oklahoma: Vance Air Force Base, near Enid, and Altus Air Force Base. Both are in Lucas’ district.

The Obama administration listed the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species in March. The listing of threatened -- a step below endangered -- followed years of review.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the lesser prairie chicken -- a species of prairie grouse -- as threatened, but it also allowed economic activity to continue under the multi-state conservation plan.

In its announcement, the service said the bird would be listed under a rule that would "limit regulatory impacts on landowners and businesses from this listing."

Lucas’ amendment still has a long journey through the legislative process to become law.

The amendment would also remove the American Burying Beetle from threatened or endangered list.

Chris Casteel

Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the... Read more ›