The Lesser Prairie-Chicken (LPC) Interstate Working Group of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) is developing a range-wide conservation plan to increase the population of the LPC, in partnership within federal agencies and others. The states include Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
The conservation plan emphasizes tools and incentives to encourage landowners and others to voluntarily partner with agencies in LPC habitat conservation efforts, while also achieving their land use needs. WAFWA has engaged the Ecosystem Management Research Institute (www.emri.org) to assist with the development of the plan.
Background – The LPC is a North American grouse species that historically occupied sand sagebrush, shinnery oak, and mixed grass vegetation types of the southern Great Plains. LPC and the habitat upon which they depend have diminished across their historical range by about 90%. In 1998 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determined that the LPC was warranted for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) but was precluded because of higher listing priorities. In December 2012, the USFWS released a proposed rule that indicates the agency is considering listing the LPC as “threatened” under the ESA, with a final determination to be made by September 2013. The range-wide LPC conservation plan is being developed to provide voluntary conservation for LPC, and hopefully preclude the need for final listing.
Planning Process to Date – An initial draft of the range-wide plan was provided for public review in mid-January 2013 and public/stakeholder meetings were held on January 23-24 in Oklahoma City to present and discuss that first draft. Links to the presentations given at each meeting are provided below:
January 23 - Powerpoint Presentation – Present draft LPC conservation plan; address questions; hear comments; identify additional conservation opportunities to include in the plan.
January 24 – Powerpoint Presentation - Detailed discussion of how LPC habitat mitigation will be addressed in the conservation plan, including discussion of mitigation metrics, Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAA), mitigation credits, conservation banking, and other habitat mitigation tools.
Final Draft of Range-Wide Conservation Plan for Lesser Prairie Chicken - The final draft of the range-wide LPC conservation strategy has been posted for public review on this website. Click here to view it now. The final plan has been endorsed by the USFWS and provides a range-wide population goal for the LPC, identifies focus areas in each state where LPC conservation efforts will be focused, lists actions that will be taken to help increase its population, and provides a system for mitigating impacts to LPC habitat.
Next Steps – The Service will carefully consider the final plan, its implementation and effectiveness when it makes a final determination on whether to list the lesser prairie-chicken under the ESA in March, 2014. In the coming weeks, the Service will revise the May 6, 2013, proposed 4(d) special rule for the lesser prairie-chicken to more specifically identify the range-wide conservation plan as one that, when implemented, will address the conservation needs of the species. If the Service ultimately determines that the lesser prairie-chicken should be listed as a threatened species, the revised 4(d) rule would provide a mechanism for ESA compliance. Linking the plan to a 4(d) special rule would offer participating landowners and industry participants regulatory certainty, as actions carried out in accordance with the plan would be in compliance with the ESA, even if the species requires ESA protection.
Please contact Bill Van Pelt at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 623-236-7573 with any questions regarding the public involvement.
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