NRCS New Mexico Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative
Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative (LPCI)
The lesser prairie-chicken, Tympanuchus pallidicinctus, is an upland, grassland-nesting bird found in the mid-tall mixed grasslands, sand-sage grasslands and shinnery oak grasslands of western Kansas, southeast Colorado, northwest Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle, and eastern New Mexico. Lesser prairie-chicken populations have declined dramatically during the past several decades; as with the other prairie grouse species, the decline is largely due to loss or degradation of suitable habitat.
To assist in the recovery of this at-risk species, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has collaborated with partners to develop a five-state Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI). The initiative provides financial and technical assistance to landowners for their voluntary management, enhancement, and expansion of lesser prairie-chicken habitat, while promoting the overall health of grazing lands and the long-term sustainability of ranching operations. LPCI objectives will be funded by NRCS through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis.
The LPCI goal is to promote a healthy agricultural landscape which provides for the enhancement and long-term maintenance of lesser prairie-chicken habitat. Priority resource concerns to address include:
Reduced habitat quality, or other limiting factors, which restrict lesser prairie-chicken population growth.
Plant communities with declining health, productivity or vigor.
Deterioration of economic stability for ranching operations.
Plus many more– Each conservation plan will be tailored to address site-specific resource concerns.
In fiscal year 2013, USDA-NRCS in New Mexico obligated $1,106,273 million dollars to the initiative; approving six contracts to enhance over 110,000 acres of lesser prairie-chicken habitat.
Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT)
An online mapping application was created by a coalition of states to provide information on lesser prairie-chicken habitat; to help facilitate targeted conservation efforts and responsible development of natural resources. The Southern Great Plains Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (SGP CHAT).
ESA Conferencing Report
The lesser prairie-chicken is a Federal candidate species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the NRCS have collaborated by using the “conferencing” provisions under section 7 of the ESA to develop the LEPC Conferencing Report. This document was developed to assist NRCS in identifying and resolving potential conflicts at an early stage in the planning process, and to provide certainty to cooperators who voluntarily implement the covered conservation measures that those actions will be in compliance with the ESA.
New Mexico Priority Areas
In New Mexico, the priority areas for the LPCI include portions of Chaves, Curry, De Baca, Eddy, Lea, Quay, and Roosevelt Counties. Priority Area Map (PDF; 766 KB)
LPCI Conservation Practices and Requirements
Provided below are a few of the NRCS Conservation Practices used to implement the initiative. A complete list is provided in the LPCI Conservation Practices (PDF; 50 KB).
Required Management Practices
Ranking Criteria and Practice Cost List
Application ranking criteria is developed specifically for the initiative each fiscal year. The ranking is designed to place priority to those applications which provide the greatest conservation benefit to the lesser prairie-chicken. As part of this process, applicants will be asked if there are lek sites or lesser prairie-chickens on or near their property; this may be confirmed by NRCS or our representatives prior to final ranking.
Pasture Deferment: Applicants must agree to defer a portion of their rangeland from livestock grazing each year, for a three-year contract period. This requirement was established to provide critical nesting and brood rearing habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken. The percentage of land the applicant agrees to defer will affect the ranking score, with a greater percentage of deferment being ranked higher. Applications without the ability for minimum pasture deferment will be considered low in funding priority.
For additional information about the LPCI and how to apply, please contact the local NRCS office in your county (USDA Service Centers). NRCS service centers included in the initiative: Artesia, Clovis, Fort Sumner, Lovington, Roswell, Tucumcari, and Portales.
State Program Manager
For additional information please visit the National NRCS website on Landscape Initiatives.