“The United States made a commitment 50 years ago when the Endangered Species Act was passed that we would support wildlife when wildlife needed us most. Today, the Senate took a disturbing step going back on that promise, and lesser prairie-chickens could pay the price. This is a sad moment for conservation.”
Today, in a 50-48 vote, the U.S. Senate passed legislation to delist threatened and endangered populations of lesser prairie-chicken using the Congressional Review Act (CRA).
The Congressional Review Act has never been used to overturn a listing decision under the Endangered Species Act(ESA).
If made law, this action could doom this species to extinction. Under the CRA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be prevented from issuing a rule that is “substantially the same” without another act of Congress. The meaning of “substantially the same” is unclear, creating uncertainty in whether the agency would be able to reestablish protections if declines continue in the future.
Mary Beth Beetham, director of legislative affairs for Defenders of Wildlife issued this statement in response:
“The United States made a commitment 50 years ago when the Endangered Species Act was passed that we would support wildlife when wildlife needed us most. Today, the Senate took a disturbing step going back on that promise, and the lesser prairie-chicken could pay the price. This is a sad moment for conservation.”
Found on only 10% of their former range, lesser prairie-chicken has experienced one of the most precipitous declines of any bird species in the U.S., and removal of ESA protections will be disastrous. The species has declined 97% from its historical numbers. From 2021 to 2022 alone, their populations declined by more than 20%; and as of last year, only an estimated 27,000 birds remained, with their numbers likely having declined further since then.
Defenders of Wildlife is celebrating 75 years of protecting all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With a nationwide network of nearly 2.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.