Jack Rabbit, Texas-Photo Credit Chase Fountain

Burrowing Owl, Nevada - Photo Credit Tim Torrell

Eyed Trout Eggs, Tonto Creek Hatchery AZ - Photo Credit George Andrejko

Humpback Whales, Orca, Alaska - Photo Credit Sandstrom, Riley Woodford

 
 
 

News

Lesser Prairie Chicken News Releases
Entries 1-10 of 29
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Friday, March 22, 2019

Potential Partnership with Common Ground Capital is Part of Discussion

Posted by WAFWA at 3/22/2019 11:54:00 PM
Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Aerial surveys will begin March 15 and run through mid-May in five states containing lesser prairie-chicken habitat. The surveys are conducted annually by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) to document population trends and how the bird is responding to management strategies identified in the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan.

The range-wide plan is a collaborative effort of WAFWA and the state wildlife agencies of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. It was developed to ensure conservation of the lesser prairie-chicken with voluntary cooperation of landowners and industry. The plan allows agriculture producers and industry to continue operations while reducing impacts to the bird and its grassland habitat.

“This survey provides the data for annual estimates of the lesser prairie-chicken population across the five states,” explained Roger Wolfe, WAFWA’s Lesser Prairie-chicken Program Manager. “These population estimates are critical in helping us guide decisions related to conservation efforts targeting lesser prairie-chickens and their habitat.”

The surveys will be conducted by helicopter in locations chosen randomly within lesser prairie-chicken range, which is part of the methodology strategy. In previous years, some of the fly paths prompted calls, which is why WAFWA is providing notification about the start of aerial survey work.

Preliminary results from this year’s surveys will be available on July 1.

WAFWA news releases available at http://www.wafwa.org/news/

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan can be found HERE

 

Since 1922, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has advanced conservation in western North America. Representing 24 western states and Canadian provinces, WAFWA’s reach encompasses more than 40 percent of North America, including two-thirds of the United States. Drawing on the knowledge of scientists across the West, WAFWA is recognized as the expert source for information and analysis about western wildlife. WAFWA supports sound resource management and building partnerships at all levels to conserve wildlife for the use and benefit of all citizens, now and in the future.

Posted by WAFWA at 3/5/2019 11:09:00 PM
Monday, July 9, 2018

The latest lesser prairie-chicken survey shows bird populations are up from last year, continuing an upward trend over the last few years. The survey indicates an estimated breeding population of 38,637 birds this year, compared to 29,934 birds counted last year.

“This approximately 30% annual increase is good news, but we know that year-to-year fluctuations are the norm with upland birds like the lesser prairie-chicken,” said Roger Wolfe, WAFWA’s Lesser Prairie-chicken Program Manager. “The most encouraging result from the survey is the steadily increasing population trend over the last six years, which likely reflects improving habitat conditions.”

Lesser prairie-chickens can be found in four ecoregions in five states: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.  Wildlife biologists note prairie chicken numbers regularly fluctuate up and down from year to year due to changes in habitat conditions mainly influenced by weather patterns. More favorable weather patterns this past year contributed to apparent increases in three of four ecoregions where the birds are found.  There is concern that moderate to severe drought over portions of the lesser prairie-chicken range this year may lead to a down turn in the population next year.

The shinnery oak ecoregion of eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle saw the biggest annual increase in birds, followed by the sand sagebrush ecoregion of southeast Colorado and southwest Kansas.  The shortgrass ecoregion which covers northwest Kansas also registered an annual increase in the number of breeding birds. The estimated number of birds in the mixed-grass ecoregion spanning the northeast Panhandle of Texas, northwest Oklahoma and south-central Kansas is similar to last year’s estimate.

The annual population surveys are conducted as part of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Plan, a collaborative effort of WAFWA and state wildlife agencies of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. It was developed to ensure long-term viability of the lesser prairie-chicken through voluntary cooperation by landowners and industry. The plan allows industry to continue operations while reducing and mitigating impacts to the bird and its grassland habitat. Industry contributions support conservation actions implemented by participating private landowners. To date, industry partners have committed more than $64 million in enrollment and mitigation fees to pay for conservation actions, and landowners across the range have agreed to conserve more than 150,000 acres of habitat through 10-year and permanent conservation agreements.

“We’re encouraged by this year’s numbers but are mindful that successful conservation of the lesser prairie-chicken will require decades of consistent progress,” said J.D. Strong, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Chairman of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative Council. “The continued success of the range-wide plan depends on ongoing participation by industry partners, and we are grateful for the support shown thus far. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be making another ruling on the status of the lesser prairie-chicken later this year, and industry support of the plan is more important than ever. At such a critical juncture in the conservation of this important but imperiled prairie grouse, we encourage industry to contact us and get involved."

 

For more information about the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan, contact Roger Wolfe at roger.wolfe@wafwa.org

WAFWA news releases available at www.wafwa.org/news/

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan can be found HERE

Photo Credit: Grant Beauprez

 

Since 1922, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has advanced conservation in western North America. Representing 24 western states and Canadian provinces, WAFWA’s reach encompasses more than 40 percent of North America, including two-thirds of the United States. Drawing on the knowledge of scientists across the West, WAFWA is recognized as the expert source for information and analysis about western wildlife. WAFWA supports sound resource management and building partnerships at all levels to conserve wildlife for the use and benefit of all citizens, now and in the future.

Posted by WAFWA at 7/9/2018 11:52:00 PM
Tuesday, April 3, 2018

On March 30, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service its fourth annual report detailing achievements under the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan. Among other accomplishments, WAFWA reported on the permanent conservation of land in three ecoregions, including a stronghold that was created with the placement of a conservation easement on a nearly 30,000-acre ranch in Kansas. In addition, the population of the bird is trending upward, a promising sign.

“We’re in this for the long haul and we’re just four years in at this point,” said J.D. Strong, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Chairman of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative Council. “We’re pleased at the progress that has been made thus far. The population trend is encouraging, as is the continued support of all of our partners who are participating in the range-wide plan.”

The range-wide plan is a collaborative effort of the state wildlife agencies of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado as well as other private and public partners involved in lesser prairie-chicken conservation. It was developed to enhance lesser prairie-chicken conservation by refocusing existing efforts and also established a new mitigation framework, administered by WAFWA, to encourage greater voluntary cooperation of landowners and industry participants. This plan allows industry participants to continue operations while restoring and maintaining habitat and reducing development impacts to the bird and its habitat.

The plan was endorsed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2013, and as part of the conservation effort, the states agreed to report annually on the overall progress of the plan. Findings for 2017 include:

Lesser prairie-chicken population stable, trending up

The annual lesser prairie-chicken aerial survey used to monitor populations was conducted from March through May 2017. The breeding population was estimated at 33,269 birds in 2017 which was up 34% from the previous year. There has been a statistically significant increasing trend in the range-wide lesser prairie-chicken breeding population since 2013 when drought subsided across much of their range. The average rate of annual increase since that time has been 2,931 birds.

Permanent conservation efforts on private land are bolstered in 2017

During this reporting period, WAFWA secured permanent conservation in three ecoregions by finalizing agreements with five landowners.  One site consists of 968 acres of privately owned native rangeland in the mixed-grass ecoregion in south central Kansas. WAFWA purchased a perpetual easement, held by Pheasants Forever, that protects the conservation values of the site. This property is adjacent to a property WAFWA has already permanently conserved, bringing the complex total to 2,726 acres.

In September 2017, permanent conservation easements were finalized with three different landowners to secure a complex of 3,682 acres in the shortgrass ecoregion in northwest Kansas. The Nature Conservancy holds these easements.

WAFWA acquired the title to a 29,718-acre Kansas ranch in the sand sagebrush ecoregion in 2016, and in March 2017, a conservation easement held by The Nature Conservancy was placed on the ranch. The property meets all the criteria to be considered a stronghold, which is defined as a large area of high-quality habitat that can sustain a population into the future. WAFWA will continue to manage the property as a working cattle ranch.

Private land lease agreements enhance conservation efforts

In March 2017, a new 10-year term agreement was signed with a landowner in the mixed-grass ecoregion on 12,738 acres in southern Kansas.  An additional 10-year agreement was signed with another landowner on a 160-acre inholding within the larger tract. Both properties are grazed and managed as one unit. 

NFWF grant enhances lesser prairie-chicken habitat

During 2017, WAFWA provided $153,945 in funding to a private landowner in the shinnery oak ecoregion in the Texas Panhandle for mechanical removal of invasive mesquite. The funding for that agreement was provided by a ConocoPhillips Spirit of Conservation Grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The agreement prescribed 933 acres of brush management in a high priority area that is immediately adjacent to a property that is occupied by the species and permanently conserved. All the restoration work prescribed through this agreement was completed prior to the end of this reporting period and lesser prairie-chicken are expected to quickly benefit from the new habitat. 

Industry projects mitigated

In 2017, there were 169 industry projects processed and mitigated. These projects required $1,426,961.45 in mitigation fees. There continues to be a substantial surplus of credits available. In 2017, participant companies reduced impacts on lesser prairie-chicken habitat by voluntarily siting 74% of new development with pre-existing development and by siting most new developments in areas that have poor or marginal habitat quality. These siting decisions also significantly reduced the amount of mitigation fees required to offset the new development. 

Cooperative efforts enhancing conservation

A two-year renewable agreement with Pheasants Forever was extended for the second year of the agreement to partially fund five positions located throughout the lesser prairie-chicken’s range. This is a cooperative effort between the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Pheasants Forever and WAFWA. The supported positions will assist all the partnering entities with program promotion, monitoring activities, and conservation planning.  In addition, a video highlighting the WAFWA lesser prairie-chicken program was produced and can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TI4M_uPgqlM

Contact: Roger Wolfe, 785.256.3737
roger.wolfe@wafwa.org

Photo Credit: Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism

Full details are in the annual report, which will be available on the WAFWA website at www.wafwa.org

Since 1922, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has advanced conservation in western North America. Representing 23 western states and Canadian provinces, WAFWA’s reach encompasses more than 40 percent of North America, including two-thirds of the United States. Drawing on the knowledge of scientists across the West, WAFWA is recognized as the expert source for information and analysis about western wildlife. WAFWA supports sound resource management and building partnerships at all levels to conserve wildlife for the use and benefit of all citizens, now and in the future.

Posted by WAFWA at 4/3/2018 9:05:00 AM
Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Aerial surveys will begin March 16 and run through mid-May in five states containing lesser prairie-chicken habitat. The surveys are conducted annually by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) to document population trends and how the bird is responding to management strategies identified in the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan.

The range-wide plan is a collaborative effort of WAFWA and the state wildlife agencies of  Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. It was developed to ensure conservation of the lesser prairie-chicken with voluntary cooperation of landowners and industry. The plan allows agriculture producers and industry to continue operations while reducing impacts to the bird and its grassland habitat.

“This survey is critical to provide annual estimates of the lesser prairie-chicken population across the five states,” explained Roger Wolfe, WAFWA’s Lesser Prairie-chicken Program Manager. “These population estimates help guide decisions related to conservation efforts targeting lesser prairie-chickens and their habitat.”

The surveys will be conducted by helicopter in locations chosen randomly within lesser prairie-chicken range, which is part of the methodology strategy. In previous years, some of the fly paths prompted calls, which is why WAFWA is providing notification about the start of aerial survey work.

Preliminary results from this year’s surveys will be available on July 1.

WAFWA news releases available at http://www.wafwa.org/news/

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan can be found HERE

Contact: Roger Wolfe, 785.256.3737
roger.wolfe@wafwa.org

 

Since 1922, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has advanced conservation in western North America. Representing 23 western states and Canadian provinces, WAFWA’s reach encompasses more than 40 percent of North America, including two-thirds of the United States. Drawing on the knowledge of scientists across the West, WAFWA is recognized as the expert source for information and analysis about western wildlife. WAFWA supports sound resource management and building partnerships at all levels to conserve wildlife for the use and benefit of all citizens, now and in the future.

Posted by WAFWA at 3/6/2018 11:41:00 PM
Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) recently convened a forum of conservation professionals working on lesser prairie-chicken recovery efforts to share information and strategize how conservation efforts for the bird can be enhanced. The meeting took place at the Arcadia Conservation Education Area in Edmond, OK Jan.17-18, 2018, and was hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, WAFWA, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

More than 60 professionals attended, including representatives of state and federal agencies and nonprofit organizations that are working on a variety of efforts to conserve the grassland bird. The lesser-prairie chicken was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2014, a listing that was vacated in 2016 as a result of a lawsuit and subsequent federal court ruling. Several environmental groups petitioned that decision, and a species status review is currently underway by USFWS, which could result in the species being listed again.

The conservation partners forum was designed to identify paths forward to enhance current conservation strategies and develop new strategies to conserve grasslands and the lesser prairie-chicken. The focal point of the meeting was WAFWA’s Lesser Prairie-chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan.

“We view the range-wide plan as a road map for comprehensive recovery of the lesser prairie-chicken,” said attendee Tim Griffiths, West Working Lands for Wildlife Coordinator with NRCS. “We were glad to participate, because we believe there is ample opportunity to scale up private lands conservation in the Southern Great Plains. Having a diverse group of partners aligned and all working towards productivity of working rangelands will yield much larger results.”

The partners shared information on current efforts and then spent time brainstorming specific ideas and suggestions on how to move forward to amplify collective efforts.

"Everyone at the table during the meeting shares the same goals of improving habitat and ultimately increasing populations of the lesser prairie-chicken across its range," said J.D. Strong, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Chairman of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative Council. "Now comes the real work of executing our action items, and I am confident that we can make a real difference for long-term health of the prairie chicken population and the working landscape where it lives."

Action items included improving reporting, better coordination of conservation efforts, enhanced communication, and developing precise interim measures tied to the long-term goals of the range-wide plan. Ensuring grassland and lesser prairie-chicken conservation funding is included in the Farm Bill that will be before Congress soon was another item highlighted.

“This gathering has really exceeded expectations,” said Amy Lueders, USFWS Regional Director for the Southwest Region. “We all share a passion for this and it’s encouraging to celebrate the conservation successes we’ve had so far and work together to amplify all of the efforts out there.  We all need to stay focused on the goals of the range-wide plan and the bigger picture of restoring prairie ecosystems that are at risk, not only for the lesser prairie-chicken, but for all species that depend on healthy habitat.”

The range-wide plan is a collaborative effort of WAFWA; the state wildlife agencies of Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas; U.S. Department of Agriculture; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and many non-government conservation organizations. It was developed to conserve the lesser prairie-chicken by providing another voluntary conservation program for landowner and industry, and improving coordination between state and federal conservation agencies. Funding for WAFWA’s conservation efforts comes from voluntary mitigation payments by industry partners that are enrolled in the plan.

Media Contact:
Roger Wolfe, 785-256-3737
roger.wolfe@wafwa.org

Photo Credit: Grant Beauprez

Since 1922, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has advanced conservation in western North America. Representing 23 western states and Canadian provinces, WAFWA’s reach encompasses more than 40 percent of North America, including two-thirds of the United States. Drawing on the knowledge of scientists across the West, WAFWA is recognized as the expert source for information and analysis about western wildlife. WAFWA supports sound resource management and building partnerships at all levels to conserve wildlife for the use and benefit of all citizens, now and in the future

Posted by WAFWA at 1/31/2018 5:34:00 AM
Friday, December 1, 2017

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has launched a new program to restore degraded rangeland to high quality lesser prairie-chicken habitat and reduce grassland habitat losses. The WAFWA Grassland Restoration and Retention Program will be fueled by voluntary donations from conservation-minded individuals, organizations, businesses and industry. The program will complement other efforts being implemented through the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan and expedite progress towards the plan’s goals.

Donations will help increase the amount of usable habitat for lesser prairie-chickens within high priority conservation areas. The program will provide financial support to landowners for mechanical removal of invasive trees, grass planting, and conversion of idle grasslands to grazing lands. WAFWA will maximize the benefits to the bird by utilizing donations to secure additional funding through matching grants or leverage existing USDA programs such as the Lesser Prairie-chicken Initiative administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“This is a new tool in our conservation toolbox that will enable us to advance conservation efforts for the lesser prairie-chicken,” said J.D. Strong, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Director and Chair of the Lesser Prairie-chicken Initiative Council. “We’ve received significant support for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan from industry and landowners, and we’ve also received support from various entities and conservation partners outside of the range-wide plan. We’re hopeful that this new program will provide another way for people who are interested in the bird’s long-term survival to get involved in its conservation.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently reviewing the status of the lesser prairie-chicken, which could result in the bird being placed on the endangered species list again. The bird was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2014, but a 2015 court decision vacated federal protections on procedural grounds. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service commenced another status review of the lesser prairie-chicken in 2016 which is scheduled to be completed this winter. WAFWA scientists believe that additional habitat restoration in addition to the existing conservation efforts is needed to minimize the risk of a federal listing. The initial goal for the program is to create 75,000 acres of new habitat over the next three years to increase the population of birds in priority areas.

“We plan on focusing initial efforts on mechanical brush management in the mixed grass and shinnery oak ecoregions,” explained Roger Wolfe, WAFWA’s Lesser Prairie-Chicken Program Manager. “This management practice gives us the most bang for our buck because it immediately improves degraded rangeland to a condition where it can be utilized by lesser prairie-chickens.”

WAFWA is seeking $10 million in donations to fund the first phase of the effort. Funds will be leveraged or matched with other funding sources to the maximum extent possible. Interested donors can make contributions to WAFWA’s Foundation for Western Fish & Wildlife. The foundation is a 501c(3) non-profit so all donations are tax deductible. Interested donors should contact Sean Kyle for more information about contributing to this program.

Sean Kyle
WAFWA, Industry Services Director
Phone: 806-252-2766
Email: sean.kyle@wafwa.org

WAFWA Grassland Restoration and Retention Program

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan

Media Contact:
Roger Wolfe, 785-256-3737
roger.wolfe@wafwa.org

Since 1922, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has advanced conservation in western North America. Representing 23 western states and Canadian provinces, WAFWA’s reach encompasses more than 40 percent of North America, including two-thirds of the United States. Drawing on the knowledge of scientists across the West, WAFWA is recognized as the expert source for information and analysis about western wildlife. WAFWA supports sound resource management and building partnerships at all levels to conserve wildlife for the use and benefit of all citizens, now and in the future.

Photo Credit: Grant Beauprez

Posted by WAFWA at 12/1/2017 11:24:00 PM
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has finalized permanent conservation agreements with three private landowners to conserve 3,682 acres of high-quality lesser prairie-chicken habitat in northwestern Kansas.

Posted by WAFWA at 9/26/2017 3:02:00 PM
Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has finalized permanent conservation agreements with a private landowner to conserve 968 acres of high-quality lesser prairie-chicken habitat in south-central Kansas. In addition, a 160-acre tract owned by another private landowner that is fenced and managed with the property will be protected under a 10-year conservation agreement that was finalized this week. These two tracts of land are immediately adjacent to a 1,781-acre tract which was placed under a permanent conservation agreement earlier this year. The conserved acreage is all native rangeland currently being managed for livestock production, and this historical use will continue.

“Thanks to conservation-minded landowners, we now have a complex of 2,909 acres being managed with the needs of the lesser prairie-chicken in mind,” said Roger Wolfe, WAFWA’s Lesser Prairie-Chicken Program Manager.  “The ranch is in very good condition due to a long history of good management and there are two active leks on the property.”

The permanent conservation easement on the 968-acre tract was purchased by WAFWA and will be held and monitored by Pheasants Forever. The easement restricts future development and activities that would be detrimental to the habitat for the bird. All other property rights associated with historical use of the land will be retained by the private landowner.  WAFWA has also established an endowment that will provide the landowner with sufficient payments to implement a lesser prairie-chicken conservation plan in perpetuity. This transaction not only permanently protects key prairie habitat, but also ensures that this property will remain a working cattle ranch.

"Pheasants Forever is proud to partner with WAFWA and the private landowners to complete this voluntary conservation easement,” said Jordan Martincich, Director of Development for Pheasants Forever. “The conservation values associated with this project will have a positive impact on wildlife habitat for future generations.  We hope other landowners will partner with Pheasants Forever and WAFWA to perpetually protect their working lands for the benefit of wildlife and the benefit of the ranching community."

The range-wide plan is a collaborative effort of WAFWA and the state wildlife agencies of Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. It was developed to ensure conservation of the lesser prairie-chicken by providing a mechanism for voluntary cooperation by landowners and industry and improving coordination between state and federal conservation agencies. Funding for WAFWA’s conservation efforts comes from voluntary mitigation payments by industry partners that are enrolled in the plan. The plan allows agriculture producers and industry to continue operations while reducing impacts to the bird and its grassland habitat. Landowners interested in participating in one of the short-term, long-term or permanent conservation options available under the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Plan should contact Roger Wolfe at roger.wolfe@wafwa.org

 

WAFWA news releases available at http://www.wafwa.org/news/

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan can be found HERE

Media Contact: Roger Wolfe (785) 256-3737    roger.wolfe@wafwa.org

Photo Credit: Conservation Media

 

Since 1922, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has advanced conservation in western North America. Representing 23 western states and Canadian provinces, WAFWA’s reach encompasses more than 40 percent of North America, including two-thirds of the United States. Drawing on the knowledge of scientists across the West, WAFWA is recognized as the expert source for information and analysis about western wildlife. WAFWA supports sound resource management and building partnerships at all levels to conserve wildlife for the use and benefit of all citizens, now and in the future.

Posted by WAFWA at 8/22/2017 3:09:00 PM
Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has released a new video demonstrating how the mitigation program in the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan is successfully conserving habitat for this iconic grassland bird. The video documents work being done on a West Texas ranch that is being funded by industry participation in the plan. The video was produced through a partnership between WAFWA, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Pheasants Forever.

The range-wide plan allows industry to continue operations while reducing and mitigating impacts to the bird and its grassland habitat. Industry contributions support conservation actions implemented by participating private landowners. Pioneer Natural Resources is one of more than 160 companies that are enrolled in the plan.

“Pioneer jumped into this program because it gives us the ability to control our own fate,” said Pioneer VP Legal and Chief Compliance Office Ron Schindler, who appears in the video. “We were able to voluntarily jump in and do some things that would allow us to have some predictability with our future. WAFWA’s expertise helps us select places for production that are less impactful to the chicken first, and on places where we just can’t avoid them, WAFWA also helps us with designs and offsets so that if we impact the chicken in a particular place they get double the habitat elsewhere.”

Randy Beasley’s ranch in Yoakum County in West Texas is a textbook example of how the plan is improving lesser prairie-chicken habitat. Beasley’s ranch has been in his family since 1941. He recalls a time before mesquite invaded the landscape, when lesser prairie-chickens abounded. WAFWA entered into a 10-year contract with Beasley to improve habitat on 15,457 acres of his ranch. Beasley is implementing a conservation plan developed by WAFWA to increase native grass production and reduce the proliferation of mesquite and shinnery oak. Mesquite and shinnery oak are native plants but their abundance has increased dramatically since historic times due to fire suppression. Dense stands of these woody plants suppress native grasses which provide important habitat for the bird as well as forage for livestock.  Lesser prairie-chickens also avoid mesquite-infested rangelands. Ideal habitat in this region consists of a diverse stand of native grasses, forbs, and shrubs such as shinnery oak. Since the contract was initiated in March 2015, more than 2,800 acres of mesquite have been mechanically removed with another 2,400 acres slated for removal. In addition, more than 7,500 acres of shinnery oak has been chemically suppressed. WAFWA biologists are now working with the landowner to reintroduce fire to portions of the ranch so that the benefits of these restoration practices will be maintained into the future. WAFWA biologists have documented lesser prairie-chickens on the ranch and expect the birds to soon reoccupy areas where recent restoration work has occurred.

“Since we’ve started this wildlife program, we’re starting to see grass grow and we’re seeing chickens again like we did in the past,” Beasley said in the video. “It’s one of those things that is good for us financially, it has been good for the land, for the cattle and it has been a dream come true.”

The Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Plan is a collaborative effort of WAFWA and the five state wildlife agencies where the birds are found: Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. The plan was developed to ensure long-term viability of the lesser prairie-chicken through voluntary cooperation by landowners and industry. To date, industry partners have committed over $63 million in enrollment and mitigation fees to pay for conservation actions, and landowners across the range have agreed to conserve over 145,000 acres of habitat through 10-year and permanent conservation agreements.

“It is encouraging to see the progress we’ve made in just a few short years,” said J.D. Strong, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Chairman of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative Council. “This new video underscores how private landowners and industry support are making a difference for the long-term survival of the lesser prairie-chicken. Industry and landowner support for conservation efforts are critically important right now as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is moving through the process to determine if the bird warrants being listed again under the Endangered Species Act. We applaud the participation of landowners and industry who care about the future of this species.”

 

WAFWA video HERE

WAFWA news releases available at www.wafwa.org/news/

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan can be found HERE

Contact: Jim Pitman, 620.208.6120
jim.pitman@wafwa.org

 

Since 1922, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has advanced conservation in western North America. Representing 23 western states and Canadian provinces, WAFWA’s reach encompasses more than 40 percent of North America, including two-thirds of the United States. Drawing on the knowledge of scientists across the West, WAFWA is recognized as the expert source for information and analysis about western wildlife. WAFWA supports sound resource management and building partnerships at all levels to conserve wildlife for the use and benefit of all citizens, now and in the future.

Posted by WAFWA at 7/27/2017 5:43:00 PM
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