This Western grouse, found in five states, has been a candidate for listing since 1998. The recommendation begins a yearlong process of whether the lesser prairie chicken should receive federal protection.
Fish and Wildlife said it made the recommendation based on evidence that the lesser prairie chicken's population and habitat are in decline.
"Listing cannot come soon enough for the lesser prairie chicken," said Taylor Jones of WildEarth Guardians. "Threats are increasing, the species' range is contracting and current conservation efforts are too little, too late."
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce took the opposite position, sending out a statement headlined, "Here we go again." Pearce, R-Hobbs, successfully led opposition to listing the dunes sagebrush lizard as an endangered species.
"Unfortunately, our jobs and our way of life in southern New Mexico continue to come under assault," Pearce said. "The prairie chicken is yet another example that federal species regulation is not based on science, but rather driven by lawyers for extreme interest groups, like Santa Fe-based WildEarth Guardians, who filed the lawsuit in this case."
The Environmental Defense Fund, based in New York City, entered the debate suggesting the type of compromise that ended the dunes.