In brief: Lesser prairie chicken placed on threatened species list
Washington – The Obama administration said Thursday it is placing a grassland grouse known as the lesser prairie chicken on a list of threatened species, a move that could affect oil and gas drilling, wind farms and other activities in five central and southwestern states.
The decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service is a step below “endangered” status and allows for more flexibility in how protections for the bird will be carried out under the Endangered Species Act.
The prairie chicken has lost more than 80 percent of its traditional habitat, mostly because of human activity such as oil and gas drilling, ranching and construction of power lines and wind turbines, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Last year, the prairie chicken’s population across the five states – Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico – declined to fewer than 18,000 birds. A conservation plan adopted by the five states has a goal of increasing the population to 67,000 birds.
Oil companies have said potential new regulations would impede their operations and would cost them hundreds of millions of dollars in oil and gas development in one of the country’s most prolific basins, the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico.
Nuclear strategist James Schlesinger dies
Washington – Onetime economics professor and longtime nuclear strategist James Schlesinger was a political man for all seasons, holding a long string of Cabinet and other high-level posts through three administrations. He was hired – and dismissed – by presidents of both parties.
Schlesinger, who died Thursday at the age of 85, built an impressive national-security resume under Republican presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and served as the nation’s first energy secretary under Democratic President Jimmy Carter during the energy crisis of the late 1970s.
Earlier, he served as a White House budget official, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and director of the Central Intelligence Agency under Nixon; and as defense secretary under both Nixon and Ford.
Both Carter and Ford sent the scrappy, Harvard-educated Schlesinger packing after a few years. But he kept bouncing back. In later years, he served on a succession of defense and nuclear-energy related government advisory boards and panels.
Report: Autism more common than thought
Autism is much more common than previously thought, according to a new U.S. government report that estimates that 1 in 68 children have some form of the disorder.
Boosting the rate has become a two-year ritual since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set up a surveillance system more than a decade ago. The last estimate, in 2012, was 1 in 88, up from 1 in 110 two years before that.
As in the past, researchers could not say what was driving the increase. While the role of environmental factors remains an open question, rising awareness of the disorder, greater detection and improved access to services have all been shown to be significant factors in the explosive growth in diagnosis over the last two decades.