There's a fight going on in the middle of the western U.S. that has the White House, the oil industry, the media, and the Armed Forces all very unhappy. And it revolves around a chicken.... the prairie chicken to be exact.
Last year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service labeled the prairie chicken a threatened species because their habitat is currently being destroyed by multiple sources. Land development, oil drilling, and the grazing of livestock are all taking the prairie chicken's home away. There are only about 30,000 of them left in the entire country.
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The fact that the chickens were labeled threatened isn't quite as serious as if they had been labeled endangered, which angered conservation groups. They were convinced the land usage restrictions wouldn't be enough. On the other side, energy corporations believed the restrictions were much too limiting. A coalition of energy companies decided to take the fight to court, but the prairie chicken champions fought back, initiating a lengthy legal battle.
In September of this year, after months of fighting in court, a judge actually overturned the prairie chicken's 'threatened' status, which is sure to make the battles continue for much longer. But if you don't have a vested interest in oil, the army, or conservation, why should you care about the prairie chicken? It's definitely not the most interesting animal population that's currently in decline, or even the cutest.
What it comes down to is that the prairie chicken is actually more of a symbol. America's western frontier is full of wildlife - prairie dogs, foxes, sand dune lizards, burrowing owls - and they're all being affected by the changes to their habitat. It's a balanced ecosystem that's on the receiving end of competing interests. It's just one of many scenarios where money and power are fighting land conservation.
Read more about the prairie chicken fight:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife News Release
The Center of Biological Diversity