Cattle producer groups and a Texas oil industry organization are planning to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service for listing the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act. 

The groups are looking to overturn the listing of the Northern and Southern Distinct Population Segments affecting southeastern Colorado, western Kansas, eastern New Mexico, western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. 

The listing was announced in November and scheduled to go into effect on Tuesday, but FWS announced a 60-day delay until March 27 to allow cattle producers time to sign up for conservation agreements before the bird’s primary nesting season.

Sigrid Johannes of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association says the bird is still around because of the “voluntary conservation efforts of ranchers.” 

Particular concerns have been raised with a rule affecting grazing operations in habitat for the northern population segment of the bird. NCBA said the rule will allow third-party groups to act as grazing authorities and “open the door to activist groups” for industry oversight. 

“Designating a third-party verification system puts political priorities over sound science,” Johannes said. “This 4(d) rule would allow environmental activist groups to become ‘grazing police’ over cattle producers.”

The notice of intent to sue was signed by the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, NCBA, the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, the Kansas Livestock Association, the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association and the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association.

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