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Potential endangered listing of Oklahoma bird worries businesses

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently investigating whether the lesser prairie chicken, a bird native to western Oklahoma, should be listed as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, the Houston Chronicle reports.

The bird's natural habitat - which included prairie grasslands in New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas - has been reduced to about 8 percent of its historic range, according to Mark Salvo, an expert with Wild Earth Guardians, an organization that petitioned to have the species listed more than 12 years ago.

Salvo told the news source that some experts believe that fewer than 10,000 birds remain. However, business owners and other officials representing the oil and gas industry, electric utilities, transportation, farming and ranching all believe that listing the bird would hurt their industries in western Oklahoma, the news source reports.

They voiced their opinions at a forum held at the University of Central Oklahoma yesterday by the Oklahoma Secretary of the Environment Gary Sherrer and the office of U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe, the Edmond Sun reports.

The industry officials said that their sectors could be harmed by the listing because buildings and other development has to take certain precautions not to endanger a threatened species - meaning it could cost them more or hamper their progress, according to the news source. 
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