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OIPA working to avoid prairie chicken listing

February 29, 2012
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is developing a proposed listing rule for the Lesser Prairie Chicken that will be issued in September assessing the status of the prairie chicken and determine if it should be listed under the Endangered Species Act.   

The Lesser Prairie Chicken is found in five states that include Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, New Mexico and Colorado.  In Oklahoma, the bird and its habitat are located in western Oklahoma. A listing of the species under the ESA could negatively impact oil and gas drilling and production activities that are located in prairie chicken's habitat.  

As a result, OIPA formed a working group that includes OIPA member company representatives, non-member industry representatives, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), and other government entities to determine if a listing can be avoided.  

OIPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the ODWC to work collaboratively together to avoid or minimize the effects of oil and gas (O&G) drilling and production activities on the LPC and its habitat in western Oklahoma.  In an effort to show the USFWS that a listing is not warranted, the working group developed a document called Voluntary Best Practices (VBP) that oil and gas operators can easily implement. Operators that plan to drill or operate wells in western Oklahoma should review and implement, where appropriate and feasible, the recommendations provided in the VBP. 

OIPA and the working group are also developing a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) for O&G activities.  A CCAA is a voluntary agreement between the USFWS and an operator to address the conservation needs of the Lesser Prairie Chicken before it becomes listed as endangered or threatened. The goal of the CCAA is to implement conservation measures to eliminate the threats and preclude the need for federal listing. If the species is listed, the CCAA provides an operator with assurances that their conservation efforts will not result in future regulatory obligations in excess of those they agree to at the time they enter into the CCAA.

In addition, OIPA is also reviewing and evaluating proposed research projects that industry can support and fund that may delay or possibly preclude the listing of the LPC.  

Finally, OIPA prepared comments that were presented by David Ferris with Crawley Petroleum, at a public hearing in September that was hosted by Senator Jim Inhofe and Gary Sherrer, Oklahoma’s Secretary of Environment. OIPA’s comments reinforced that collaborative efforts between industry and the ODWC would be more beneficial to the Lesser Prairie Chicken and its habitat than listing the species under the ESA.  

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