Lesser Prairie Chicken News Releases

WAFWA Statement Regarding the Federal Court Decision about the Lesser Prairie-Chicken

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) is evaluating the recent federal court decision regarding the listing of the lesser prairie-chicken that was handed down in the U.S. District Court Western District of Texas on Sept. 1, 2015. The decision vacates federal protections for the lesser prairiechicken, which was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2014.

The court ruling states that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not thoroughly consider active conservation efforts in making the listing decision, namely the activities associated with the Lesser Prairie-Chicken RangeWide Plan (RWP). The RWP was developed and is being administered by WAFWA.

The court decision underscores the validity of a comprehensive voluntary conservation effort involving state conservation agencies, landowners and industry. The RWP was developed with long term conservation of the lesser prairie-chicken in mind, regardless of its Endangered Species Act status. This plan allows agriculture producers and industry to continue operations while reducing the identified threats considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Regardless of the eventual outcome of this latest court decision, continued implementation of the RWP is critical to long-term conservation of the bird and its habitat.

Since the plan went into effect last year, more than 96,000 acres of lesser prairie-chicken habitat is being conserved through ten-year landowner agreements. More than 180 oil, gas, wind, electric and pipeline companies have enrolled about 11 million acres across the five states, and have committed $47.5 million for habitat conservation. Enrollment fees are deposited into an endowment with WAFWA and administered to fund conservation efforts by private landowners to benefit the lesser prairie-chicken within its five-state range. (Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico). Landowners currently enrolled in the conservation plan will receive $14 million dollars in payments over the life of their contracts.

An abundance of spring rainfall, along with ongoing efforts associated with the RWP and other conservation initiatives, has helped increase the population of birds by approximately 25 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to results from a recent range-wide aerial survey. Despite this encouraging news, the population is still low compared to historical numbers and the threats to the lesser prairie-chicken and its habitat still exist.

Organized in 1922, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) represents 23 states and Canadian provinces, an area covering nearly 3.7 million square miles of some of North America's most wild and scenic country. WAFWA supports and promotes the principles of sound resource management and the building of partnerships at the regional, national and international levels in order to enhance wildlife conservation efforts and the protection of associated habitats in the public interest. 

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Photo Credit Dan Williams, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (c)

Posted by WAFWA at 9/3/2015 7:30:00 PM
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