New Mexico county in prairie chicken lawsuit

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LOVINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Commissioners in a southeastern New Mexico county voted unanimously Thursday to join a lawsuit against listing the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species.

Lea County Commission Chairman Gregg Fulfer said the county entered the lawsuit because the commission believes the federal government's results on the chicken's threatened status is inconclusive.

The lawsuit is expected to be a long battle on the future of the endangered grouse roaming five states, Hobbs News-Sun reports (http://goo.gl/t5mRgc).

Earlier this month, Lea County was listed in a joint complaint filed in a federal court in Texas. The Permian Basin Petroleum Association and four other New Mexico counties are also listed on the complaint.

"We had been working through this for a while," he said. "...We discussed all their science and showed in a lot of different ways how their science they were using was 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.

The Obama administration in March listed the prairie chicken as threatened.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., applauded the New Mexico counties who are part of 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. This is a federal government that is out of control."

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Information from: Hobbs News-Sun, http://www.hobbsnews.com

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