Commission signs letter opposing prairie chicken designation

QCS staff

The Quay County Commission joined with other Eastern New Mexico counties in signing letters that oppose the designation of the lesser prairie chicken as threatened or endangered and proposing that reintroduction of the Mexican wolf, an endangered species, be confined to areas away from agricultural range lands.

On the lesser prairie chicken, Brad Bryant, Quay Commission Chair, signed a letter to Daniel Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that Chaves, Curry DeBaca, Eddy, Haring, Lea and Roosevelt counties are also authorizing. The letter uses evidence compiled by Robert M. Zink, professor at the University of Minnesota, to refute the findings of Fish and Wildlife Service scientists that support the listing of the LPC, a grouse species, as endangered.

Zink’s findings show that the populations of LPC are increasing, not decreasing as FWS scientists have found, according to the letter. In addition, Zink said, the service’s finding that human-made structures are damaging LPC populations because they give raptors (hawks and eagles for instance) perches from which they can prey on LPCs is also false, since raptors have done less damage to LPC nests than mammals and reptiles on the ground, the letter says.

Further, Zink said, diseases are unlikely to spread among LPCS, since LPC groupings tend to be isolated from each other. Zink also refutes a finding that LPCs need more protected land to maintain viable populations by saying that more than enough land, 25,000 acres, is already protected.

Zink also says the findings of many studies that the FWS cites in its findings are inconclusive, not definitive, and the uncertainty does not warrant additional protection for the LPC.

The letter concludes there is no clear evidence that LPC populations are in long-term decline, there is no obvious sign of reduced genetic variation of LPCs, the threats identified in the listing document are not supported well enough to support a conclusion that listing the LPC is needed, and that local counties the state of New Mexico have many programs in place to help the LPC recover.

On the Mexican wolf, all three commissioners, including Bryant, Mike Cherry and Sue Dowell, signed a letter to Ashe that seeks more time and consideration for study and public comment before reaching any conclusions on further action. In addition, the commissioners passed a resolution that calls for:

• limiting reintroduction of the Mexican wolf to remote areas of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range,

• giving the states of Arizona and New Mexico responsibility for Mexican wolf introduction programs in those states,

• no additional introduction of Mexican wolves in Arizona and new Mexico unless it is shown the wolves cannot be successfully introduced to northern Mexico,

• if wolves must be introduced to Arizona and New Mexico, they should be limited to two remote areas, and if wolves are found outside those areas, they should be captured and re-introduced, and

• landowners should be allowed to take Mexican wolves that enter private land.

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