Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie last week announced a renewed and expanded partnership to provide expert habitat advice to farmers and ranchers managing land within lesser prairie-chicken range.

“Our goal is to deliver a win-win for agricultural producers and wildlife,” said Bonnie. “We want to help farmers and ranchers succeed for the long term while also protecting and improving habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken. Often, what is good for prairie-chickens is good for ranching.”

As part of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI), the agency is partnering with Pheasants Forever, a national wildlife conservation organization, to jointly invest $5 million over three years to support technical assistance, including hiring non-federal field conservationists to help farmers and ranchers voluntarily maintain and improve lesser prairie chicken habitat in the Southern Great Plains.

The lesser prairie chicken is not on the Endangered Species List, but since 2010, farmers and ranchers participating in the LPCI have maintained or improved more than a million acres of habitat for the bird. The bird’s range includes parts of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

What has been hanging over the heads of landowners is rulemaking that USDA could invoke against farmers and ranchers should the species be listed as threatened or endangered. As part of the regulatory predictability plan agreed to by NRCS and USFWS, farmers and ranchers voluntarily applying lesser prairie-chicken-friendly conservation practices may be protected from additional regulations under the Endangered Species Act for up to 30 years.

More information on the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative and how a farmer or rancher can work with NRCS to conserve habitat for the species, can be found by clicking here.