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



WAFWA Assessing Role in Lesser Prairie-chicken Mitigation Program

Potential Partnership with Common Ground Capital is Part of Discussion

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) is re-evaluating its role in the administration of an industry mitigation framework that is one element of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan. As part of the discussion, a potential partnership with Common Ground Capital is being explored. Common Ground Capital is a private sector conservation mitigation banking company that has the only species programmatic conservation bank agreement in the country which covers the entire range of the lesser prairie-chicken, and has been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Along with discussions regarding a potential partnership with Common Ground Capital, WAFWA’s executive committee voted on March 6 to undertake a thorough review and audit of the mitigation framework that is part of the plan. Undertaking a five-year program review was a commitment made by WAFWA when the Range-wide Plan was approved in 2013.

As a result of the pending review, new enrollments in the plan will be suspended until the audit is completed, which is estimated to take about 30 to 60 days. WAFWA's executive committee also voted to take steps to ensure funding is available for critical program operations, which will include providing services to industry partners and landowners currently participating in the program.

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 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.

Over the last four years, industry enrollment and participation in the program has declined precipitously, which has resulted in a corresponding reduction in funds to administer the program. That continuing trend, along with the commitment in the Range-wide Conservation Plan for a five-year review, prompted the decision by WAFWA to re-evaluate its status and explore a potential partnership with Common Ground Capital.

“Along with our many partners, we’re committed to the long-term conservation of the lesser prairie-chicken,” said J.D. Strong, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Chairman of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative Council. “As the administrator of the mitigation framework, WAFWA needs to ensure the program’s viability to conserve the lesser prairie-chicken as described in the Lesser Prairie-chicken Range-wide Plan. Common Ground Capital and its private landowner partners have already secured USFWS certification for private conservation lands for lesser prairie-chickens amounting to half of the 10-year conservation goals laid out in the range-wide plan. We look forward to continued discussions about a potential partnership that we believe will enhance lesser prairie-chicken conservation across its range.”

The suspension of enrollments will not affect the status of any Certificates of Inclusion held by current enrollees associated with the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA). The CCAA is authorized by USFWS, and is held by WAFWA. The CCAA describes conservation actions participants voluntarily agree to implement as part of the mitigation framework to continue their operations. These conservation actions are designed to provide conservation benefits to lesser prairie-chicken habitat while development occurs. A CCAA allows for these beneficial practices to occur even if the species becomes listed in the future. This management tool provides certainty to industry that their activities can continue in the future while also conserving species.

"WAFWA is a critical partner in efforts to conserve the lesser prairie-chicken.  We support their decision to examine the administration and design of the program to ensure it is meeting the intent of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan," said the USFWS Southwest Regional Director Amy Lueders.  "We will work closely with WAFWA to ensure that a viable program is in place that protects both the lesser prairie-chicken and industry participants going forward."      

Contact: Stewart Liley, stewart.liley@wafwa.org, 505-476-8038

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.


Photo Credit:  Conservation Media


Posted by WAFWA at 3/22/2019 11:54:00 PM
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