By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
The Quay County Commission voted Monday to join other potential plaintiffs from five states in a filing a notice of intent to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The lawsuit seeks to force removal of the Lesser Prairie Chicken from the threatened species list.
Bill Humphries, a Quay County rancher who has been vocal in his opposition to listing the prairie chicken — a grouse species— said the intent to sue is designed as a means to combat another lawsuit filed in federal court by three environmental groups. That lawsuit, filed by he Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the WildEarth Guardians, asks the court to declare the lesser prairie chicken an endangered species and nullify the five-state plan the fish and wildlife service has accepted as a means of preserving the species.
Humphries said a suit that Quay County would join would ask the fish and wildlife service to lift the threatened designation for the bird but would keep the five-state regional species protection plan intact.
Humphries brought several ranch owners with him to help make his point, as well as representatives from the Farm Bureau and Franklin McCasland, manager of the Arch Hurley Conservancy District.
Humphries said that continued listing of the lesser prairie chicken is likely to have “enormous impact” in terms of activities that would be limited or prohibited, high penalties for damaging lesser prairie chicken habitat and added difficulties in receiving permits.
County Commissioner Mike Cherry, District 2, said the county could lose its standing in any case involving the grouse species if it does not join the intent to sue.
The Commission voted unanimously to send $500 to Bud Fallon, a Seattle-based attorney who is handling the potential suit.
In a brief discussion of the county budget, Commissioner Sue Dowell questioned the county’s $50,000 membership in the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corp. after she said she learned that the economic development organization is listed as a corporation not in good standing with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office.
Dowell later learned, she said, that the economic development corporation was behind on fees.
Patrick Vanderpool, executive director of the economic development corporation, said Tuesday some procedural misunderstandings over a $20 payment to the secretary of state’s office for the corporation’s listing had caused the listing to fall behind.
“We plan to take care of it this week,” he said.
The commission approved relocating three lots on Ute Lake Ranch property to another location, due to New Mexico State University’s request to use the current location of the three lots for archeological exploration. The move was requested by Mike Staheli, managing director of Cordes and Co., which has custody of the Ute Lake Ranch property under receivership.
The commission also voted to renew contracts for office space, $500 per month, and an advertising billboard, $275 a month, for the county’s Driving While Intoxicated prevention program. The payments are made out of grant funds from the state Department of Finance and Administration.
The commission also heard a request from the Tabosa Homemakers Club to consider remodeling the kitchen of the Quay County Fairgrounds’ main exhibit hall.