HOBBS, N.M. (AP) — Another New Mexico county has joined a lawsuit to fight the listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species.
Lea County in southeastern New Mexico joined three other counties in the state last week in a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hobbs News-Sun reports (http://goo.gl/kqEWJ8).
The counties, along with the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, are suing in federal court in Texas.
Lea County Commission Chairman Gregg Fulfer said the county joined the lawsuit because the commission believes the federal government's results on the chicken's threatened status is inconclusive.
"We've been working through this for a while," he said. "We met with fish and wildlife — there were six or seven different counties that met with them. We discussed all their sites and showed in a lot of different ways how their sites they were using are not credible."
Ranchers and oil companies believe the listing will have a negative effect on the ranching, oil and gas and wind farm industries in states where the chicken lives — New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.
The federal government said those states had fewer than 18,000 lesser prairie chickens in 2013, down almost 50 percent from 2012.
In March, the Obama administration listed the prairie chicken as threatened.
U.S. Rep., Steve Pearce, R-N.M., District 2, said in a statement that he applauds the New Mexico counties filing the lawsuit.
"The Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to cater to environmental groups and disregard science will devastate New Mexico's way of life," he said. "New Mexicans will pay the price in lost jobs, industry, ranching and oil and gas production."
Information from: Hobbs News-Sun, http://www.hobbsnews.com