Commission will consider joining prairie chicken suit at next meeting

By Vanessa Kahin

Staff writer

vkahin@cnjonline.com

The Curry County Commission will consider an authorization for the county to join a lawsuit that’s been filed in Oklahoma to counter the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to list the lesser prairie chicken as threatened.

The request to participate as a plaintiff in the complaint for violations of the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act was tabled during the county commission meeting on July 25.

Commissioner Wendell Bostwick abstained on the vote to table, with commissioners Frank Blackburn and Robert Sandoval voting in favor.

The decision was tabled because commissioners Ben McDaniel and Tim Ashley were absent.

The request will be up for consideration again during the Aug. 5 meeting.

A Melrose farmer and rancher, Bostwick has been the most outspoken county commissioner against the April 10 listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species.

He has met with the New Mexico Association of Counties Public Lands and Land Use Committee, for example, to discuss ways to lobby for legislation to counteract what he believes are measures to control.

Bostwick said it’s important to fight the lesser prairie chicken listing, which he said is bound to negatively impact the area.

“It’s definitely going to affect the operation of much of our rural community,” he said.

Bostwick cited Farmers Electric as an example of a business that has been affected.

Due to the lesser prairie chicken listing, the cost of permitting and the cost of maintaining service lines has increased, Bostwick said.

This additional cost, he noted, is passed on to the customer.
Bostwick also spoke of the negative impact the Endangered Species Act has had on other communities. He cited Catron County in southwest New Mexico, which, he said, once boasted a population of 13,500 and had what he described as a “robust timber industry.”

Then, the spotted owl was listed as an endangered species, which impacted the timber industry and in turn whittled the county’s population to about 3,500.

Ironically, Bostwick said, after this turn of events the spotted owl left Catron County; settling in nearby forests where it could more easily find prey.

All that’s left of Catron County, Bostwick said, “is a tinder firebox.”