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Suit filed to stop listing of rare grouse

PORTALES – An eastern New Mexico county is suing the federal government in an effort to stop the listing of a rare grouse as a threatened species.

The Roosevelt County Commission will meet in special session Tuesday to give notice of intent to file a suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portales News-Tribune reported. The county is also joining an Arizona/New Mexico coalition in combating the lesser prairie chicken listing.

Ranchers and oil companies believe the listing will have a negative effect on the ranching, oil and gas and wind farm industries in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. That’s where the chicken’s habitat is known.

The federal government said those states had fewer than 18,000 lesser prairie chickens in 2013, down almost 50 percent from 2012.

Federal officials say the bird has lost more than 80 percent of its traditional habitat, mostly because of human activity such as oil and gas drilling, ranching and the construction of power lines and wind turbines.

Roosevelt County Manager Charlene Webb said the listing will hurt the county’s road budget. That’s because every time the road department has a project that is federally or state funded, it has to have an environmental consultation, Webb said.

Webb said it could cost the county at least $20,000 a year. The effect of the listing on farmers and ranchers has not been seen yet, according to Webb.

Some environmentalists don’t think the federal government is being aggressive enough in preserving the bird’s habitat.

Kansas has joined Oklahoma in a federal lawsuit over the process the federal government used in listing the lesser prairie chicken as threatened.

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