US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Wildlife Society Bulletin 2004, 32(1):112-118.


Considerable controversy has often surrounded proposals to confer official status (i.e., list) species under the authority of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 as amended or its precursors. Recent proposals to list the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus), the western sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus phaios), and the Gunnison sage grouse (C. minimus) were met with strong opposition by those concerned with prospects of an increased regulatory environment associated with such an action. The Attwater's prairie-chicken (T. cupido attwateri) was one of the first species listed under The Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1966, the first federal effort to specifically protect endangered species. Federal listing benefited the Attwater's by raising awareness of its status and by authorizing additional sources of funding for its management. While concern over an increased regulatory environment associated with the endangered status of the Attwater's probably has always existed among property owners and land managers, conflicts involving this bird have been few and local in scope. Maintaining good working relationships and respect for all affected interests, including property owners and land managers, has been paramount in Attwater's recovery efforts. However, these efforts at times have been hampered by "lightning-rod" issues pertaining to other species. Despite 35 years of ESA protection, the Attwater's prairie-chicken remains perilously close to extinction. Based on these experiences, federal listing should be viewed neither as a panacea nor as a demon, but rather as a tool in species recovery.