USFWS proposes ESA listing for lesser prairie chickens

Under a new proposal from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, lesser prairie chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) populations would be listed under the Endangered Species Act. The proposal, released on June 1 as part of a legal settlement agreement, cites a dramatic decline in the species’ populations, mostly due to habitat loss and fragmentation. If passed, the southern distinct population in eastern New Mexico and the southwest Texas Panhandle would be classified as an endangered species. The northern distinct population in the northeast Texas Panhandle, southeast Colorado, south-central Kansas and western Oklahoma would be listed as threatened. The lesser prairie chicken’s historical range included Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. However, the USFWS estimates that the species no longer occupies up to 90% of that area. While lesser prairie chickens once numbered in the hundreds of thousands, recent USFWS estimates put the current total population at only 27,384. The lesser prairie chicken is currently managed under the Lesser Prairie Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan, a series of voluntary measures administered by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The USFWS does not plan to designate critical habitat for the lesser prairie chicken as part of the listing proposal. Noting that “a … Continue reading USFWS proposes ESA listing for lesser prairie chickens