Agency seeks information from public, scientific community to inform final decision; continues work with states on voluntary conservation agreement
Based on scientific evidence that the lesser prairie-chicken and its habitat are in decline, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it is initiating a process to consider whether the species should be recognized as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
State conservation agencies, in partnership with federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Land Management and partners such as the Sutton Center, are working on a range-wide, voluntary conservation planning effort that will play a significant role in conserving lesser-prairie chicken habitat.
“We are encouraged by current multi-state efforts to conserve the lesser prairie-chicken and its habitat, but more work needs to be done to reverse its decline” said Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Similar to what state and federal partners in this region accomplished when the dunes sagebrush lizard was proposed, we must re-double our important work to identify solutions that provide for the long-term conservation of the species and also help working families remain on the land they have stewarded for generations.”
The Service will make a final determination on whether to add the lesser prairie-chicken to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife based on the best available science. Members of the public and scientific community are encouraged to review and comment on the proposal during the 90-day public comment period.
“Regardless of whether the lesser prairie-chicken ultimately requires protection under the ESA, its decline is a signal that our native grasslands are in trouble,” said Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Regional Director for the Service’s Southwest Region. “We know that these grasslands support not only dozens of native migratory bird and wildlife species, but also farmers, ranchers and local communities across the region.”
Once found in abundant numbers across much of the five states of Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, the lesser prairie-chickens’ historical range of native grasslands and prairies has been reduced by an estimated 84 percent. The State of Colorado has listed the species as threatened. The Service first identified the lesser prairie-chicken as a candidate for ESA protection in 1998.
Logo courtesy U.S Fish and Wildlife Service