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The U.S. Endangered Species Act is often criticized as pitting people against species by conserving habitat at the cost of jobs. Critics of current conservation policies argue that the protection of species is stripping landowners of their property rights and putting people in industries tied to resource extraction out of jobs. While changes in employment are important measures of the public costs of endangered species protection, relatively little is known about the labor market impacts of listing a species under the Endangered Species Act. We examine changes in employment associated with the lesser prairie chicken, an imperiled bird that was listed as threatened in May 2014. Using monthly county-level employment data and variation in potential prairie chicken habitat, we apply a difference-in-differences strategy to measure the employment impacts of the listing decision. We find evidence that employment declined after the listing by about 1% in counties with habitat relative to non-habitat areas. We also find that the impact is proportional to habitat, so counties with the most prairie-chicken habitat experienced the largest impacts on employment.


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