The Woodward News

Local News

September 7, 2011

Listing may danger state economy

Woodward, Okla. — Several state leaders believe the listing of the lesser prairie chicken as an endangered species would endanger the state's economy as well.

Some local landowners feel their rights as property owners may be threatened too.  

These state leaders, landowners as well as other political figures and businessmen  shared their concerns during a public forum hosted by U. S. Sen. Jim Inhofe's office at High Plains Technology Center Wednesday evening.

Understanding a desire to protect the birds, some landowners suggested less drastic measures to improve lesser prairie chicken populations other than a listing on the endangered species list, which would bring restrictions and regulations that would affect everyone from farmers to wind developers to construction crews repairing Oklahoma roads.

Alan Jett, of Slapout, said he previously asked representatives of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, "Why don't you guys pay us to leave grain on the ground?"

"Well the answer was, 'We care about habitat, not artificially increasing the number of prairie chickens.' It seems to me like this whole thing is about increasing the number of prairie chickens," Jett said.

Representatives from the oil, gas and wind energy industries discussed measures they already take when developing land to avoid disturbing lesser prairie chicken habitats.

Vice President of Competitive Power Ventures Steve Wolfgram talked about developing wind farms near Woodward.  He said the company spent a lot of time and energy looking at the environment and going to landowners to ask them if the lesser prairie chicken would be negatively impacted if they developed on the land.

Wolfgram said many of landowners in Oklahoma said the lesser prairie chickens hadn't been around for decades.

However, at another project in Kansas there were prairie chickens in an area they had planned to develop, he said.  Because the company cares and is concerned, he said Competitive Power Ventures spent the money to move the project so the species would not be affected.

Many people also discussed the negative impact on the economy that would occur if the lesser prairie chicken were listed as an endangered species.

State Sen. Bryce Marlatt said the listing will have a devastating effect on jobs. He said they are trying to maintain and create jobs and if industries cannot develop on the land because of the lesser prairie chicken, it will diminish jobs.

Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese agreed.

Reese discussed how oil, gas and wind industries provide a lot of jobs which allow families to stay in Western Oklahoma.

Beyond affecting the area and state economy, some question whether listing the prairie chicken as endangered and generating more governmental involvement will actually benefit the birds.

Jett said people receive a lot of conflicting information from the government.

For example, one of the problems for the prairie chickens are fences, which he said the government encouraged people to put up in the Homestead Act.  Also, Eastern Red Cedar trees are problematic to the habitat of the prairie chickens, which he said the government gave landowners to plant for wind breaks.

"It seems to me like part of the problem is the government. So do you guys have a better plan this time?" Jett asked.

Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Dan Ashe said he understood that economic effects are a great concern with the potential listing of the prairie chicken.  However, Ashe said the law requires the decision to be based on the biological status of the species, which includes an examination of population numbers, geographic isolation and genetic diversity.

Ashe said they are currently in the "diagnosis" stage of the listing process. The Wildlife Service, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife, Oklahoma politicians and other agencies are partnering together in order to research the biological status of the lesser prairie chicken which will ultimately determine whether or not it will be listed as an endangered or threatened species.

Results will not be determined until June 2012 and the Wildlife Service expects to issue a proposed rule on whether to list the species by Sept. 30, 2012.

Text Only
Local News
  • State board votes again to delay education plan

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma's State Board of Education voted on Wednesday for a second time to delay a formal plan for adopting new education standards in math and English amid opposition to the proposal from three education groups that represent public school boards and administrators across Oklahoma.

    July 24, 2014

  • Winners of Cudd Legacy award named

    Three veterans of the oil industry will receive this year's Bobby Joe Cudd Legacy Award during the Tri-State Oil and Gas Convention on Aug. 7 at the Woodward Conference Center.

    July 24, 2014

  • Benefit gun raffles underway

    Woodward Reserve police officers and other Woodward full time officers have come together to support one of their own.

    July 24, 2014

  • Tulsa man looking for military friend

    There are times in everyone's life when you think back and wonder whatever happened to those old friends from your past.

    July 23, 2014

  • Zoning change approved by commission

    Monday night Woodward city commissioners unanimously approved a zoning change that was contested by one local man who was protesting because he wants the neighborhood to continue its residential growth.

    July 23, 2014

  • Tangier Reunion set for Saturday, Sunday

    When Barbara (Allison) Merwin thinks back to the years she spent in the classrooms of Tangier High School, it takes a few moments for her to recall how school life was 60 years ago.

    July 23, 2014

  • Traveler Majors take regional opener

    ALVA - The Traveler Majors continued their strong Connie Mack playoff showing at Northwestern Oklahoma State University Tuesday.

    July 22, 2014

  • County OKs road use agreement

    Woodward County Commissioners on Monday approved a final version of a road use agreement between a energy company planning a wind turbine construction project near southeast Woodward County.

    July 22, 2014

  • Camp to show art is everywhere

    The Woodward Arts Theatre will become a recycling plant next week.

    July 22, 2014

  • Fairview Wrangler Rodeo turns 50 this year

    Western fun continues in Northwest Oklahoma as the Fairview Wrangler’s hosting their 50th annual rodeo.

    July 22, 2014