The Lubbock Chamber of Commerce strongly encourages area business and industry stakeholders to attend a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) public hearing in Lubbock on Feb. 11 regarding the proposed listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken as a “Threatened Species.” The hearing will take place at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 11, at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center.

“It’s vitally important that the business community and economic stakeholders turn out for this hearing. The Chamber’s concern is that a 'threatened' listing under the Endangered Species Act would have a significant impact on the economy of West Texas,” said Carlos Morales, Lubbock Chamber of Commerce chairman. “This could actually ‘threaten’ or endanger oil, gas and wind energy development and exploration in the region, and it would also negatively impact farming and ranching.”

The Chamber will offer official comment and urge that existing voluntary conservation efforts be considered instead of more federal regulation. The Lesser Prairie Chicken’s “occupied range,” according to FWS, covers more than 18 million acres of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. Despite having faced one of the worst droughts on record in recent years, the prairie chicken population is on the rise or holding steady in many parts of the country, suggesting the success of current agreements and calling into question the need for federal regulation.

“We applaud the existing efforts of farmers and ranchers to conserve Lesser Prairie Chicken habitat through such programs as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) and Grassland Reserve Program (GRP). Similarly, we’re very encouraged that several energy industry groups are proposing conservation programs,” added Morales.

FWS is taking public comment on this proposal to give stakeholders a chance to offer their concerns and to aid in the analysis that will lead to a final decision. The hearing will also serve as an opportunity for affected individuals to hear, directly from FWS and other officials, about what a listing could mean for them and why FWS is proposing it.