The lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) is an 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. Once widely distributed, the bird has experienced dramatic reductions in population, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2014.
As with the other prairie grouse species, the lesser prairie chicken requires large, intact native grasslands and prairies to thrive. Population declines have been attributed to habitat loss, modification, degradation, and fragmentation within its range.
In 2011, NRCS launched the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI) to focus technical and financial resources on improving lesser prairie chicken habitat. Under the initiative, NRCS and its conservation partners are helping farmers and ranchers enhance, restore and protect habitat for this sensitive and reclusive bird. Many of the conservation practices that promote healthy grazing lands also benefit the lesser prairie chicken and other wildlife; the primary practices are: prescribed grazing, upland wildlife habitat management, brush management, prescribed burning, range plantings, and restoration and management of rare or declining habitats.
Goals and Objectives
Working Lands for Wildlife will assist ranchers voluntarily restore or enhance 500,000 acres of rangeland over five years, combating lesser prairie chicken habitat loss, increasing habitat connectivity, and helping to ensure the continued viability of western ranching.
- 528 Prescribed Grazing (only a core practice where livestock are present)
- 645 Upland Wildlife Habitat Management
- Support sustainable grazing management that results in residual nesting cover and supports native plant communities.
- 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 lek sites.
- Promote use of government programs that provide incentives for development or restoration of habitat on private lands.
Outcomes and Impacts
Working Lands for Wildlife will complement the existing Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative, by providing additional targeted funding to help farmers and ranchers enhance, restore and protect habitat for lesser prairie chicken, and increase landowner confidence that the conservation practices they volunteer to implement will not harm the species or its habitat.
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