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FWS Endorses Conservation Plan for Lesser Prairie Chicken


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A lesser prairie chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) in New Mexico. Lesser prairie chicken population has plummeted by 50% since 2012. (Credit: Steven Walling/Wikimedia Commons)

A lesser prairie chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) in New Mexico. Lesser prairie chicken population has plummeted by 50% since 2012. (Credit: Steven Walling/Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has endorsed a voluntary five-state conservation plan for the lesser prairie chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus). The lesser prairie chicken lives in grasslands and prairie habitat in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, where the native population has declined by 84%, with current numbers estimated at 17,616.

The proposed plan would voluntarily enroll landowners and energy businesses such as oil, gas and wind developers to conserve prairie chicken habitat on their property, in exchange for assurance that if the bird is listed as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act, they will not face additional regulations. FWS will decide whether to list the bird as ‘threatened’ by the end of March. Population trends will heavily influence the Service’s decision. In the last year, prairie chicken populations have declined by 50%, due to extreme drought in the western states. The conservation plan, headed by Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA), aims to increase lesser prairie chicken population to 67,000 birds over a period of ten years.

The lesser prairie chicken is known for its elaborate mating dance, but faces danger of extinction in the near future from energy development, overgrazing, tree encroachment and conversion of rangeland habitat to cropland. Landowners are encouraged to cut down trees, use prescribed fire as a management tool and develop in areas that bird does not use for habitat. The WAFWA plan promotes conservation at a local level, while permitting sustainable land use and practical economic development.

Sources: Environment and Energy Daily (October 23, 2013), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (October 23, 2013)



View the full article from The Wildlife Society's Wildlife Policy News
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