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Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative

Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative  - 03211014
 
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Map of  the range of the Lesser prairie chicken

For more information:

Regional Conservationists Office
(202) 690-2196
(202) 690-2197
(202) 690-2198

Quick links:

State-specific sites:

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative

The Lesser Prairie-Chicken is a grassland-nesting upland bird found in mixed grass, sand-sage and shinnery oak prairies of western Kansas, southeast Colorado, northwest Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle, and eastern New Mexico. The chicken once occupied vast regions of these states.

Populations of this at-risk species and the size of their range (habitat)  have declined significantly because of loss of native prairie as well as fragmented and degraded habitat. These factors, combined with recent droughts, have taken its toll on this iconic bird, known for its mating rituals. Nearly 18,000 birds now roam its range.

As a result, NRCS expanded its conservation efforts on private lands in portions of the five states. NRCS established the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI) to help ranchers and farmers maintain the viability and profitability of their operations and voluntarily create and enhance Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitat.

NRCS provides financial and technical assistance for agricultural producers to voluntarily implement conservation practices that promote healthy grazing lands and benefit the Lesser Prairie-Chicken and other wildlife. Ranchers and farmers use the assistance provided through LPCI to implement grazing management systems, remove invasive plants, plant grasses and shrubs suitable for rangeland, and plant buffers to reduce soil erosion and improve water quality.  In most cases, practices that are good for the bird are good for ranching and can lead to improved rangeland health.

Agricultural producers with land in the Lesser Prairie-Chicken range can gain regulatory predictability if they work with NRCS to voluntarily undertake conservation activities that benefit the bird's population and habitat. An agreement between USDA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) states that ranchers and farmers can receive regulatory assurances from USFWS  for up to 30 years for carrying out these voluntary conservation activities regardless of the regulatory status of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. The bird is a candidate under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

The following Farm Bill programs help ranchers to improve Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitat: the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the newly established Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, which now includes the former Grasslands Reserve Program.

Goals

  • Develop grazing management systems that promote healthy rangelands and the vegetative structure required for nesting and brood-rearing habitats
  • Increase connectivity of existing lesser prairie chicken habitat
  • Improve weed and invasive species management
  • Reduce tillage on agricultural fields
  • Protect, maintain, and restore large tracts of native oak/tallgrass or sand sagebrush grassland.
  • Maintain stability of land use, and conserve shrub-dominated habitats near Prairie-Chicken lek sites
  • Promote use of government programs that provide incentives for development or restoration of habitat on private lands

Field Tools

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Infographic

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative Infographic - thumbnail - link for alternate text format below , under


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Full-sized infographic (JPG, 997KB)

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Additional Lesser Prairie-Chicken Resources

National Wildlife Partners

Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

Pheasants Forever

Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory

Non-Government Partners

Playa Lakes Joint Venture

Wood Foundation

The Nature Conservancy

State Wildlife Agency Partners

Colorado Department of Natural Resources

Kansas Department of Wildlife

New Mexico Game and Fish

Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Texas Parks and Wildlife