The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior on Friday said farmers, ranchers and landowners implementing Farm Service Agency Conservation Reserve Program practices intended to protect and increase lesser prairie-chicken populations will not be subject to additional regulations as a result of the species' listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
"USDA's partnerships with farmers, ranchers, producers and landowners in voluntary initiatives like the Conservation Reserve Program are critically important and are yielding real results," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The lesser prairie-chicken populations has declined to a record low of 17,616 birds, an almost 50% reduction from the 2012 population estimate, according to the FWS.
The announcement provides exemption for producers participating in lesser prairie-chicken states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. CRP initiatives include planting native grasses and vegetation that will enhance nesting and brooding habitats, and taking other steps to help restore the declining lesser prairie-chicken population.
FSA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked together to develop a Biological Opinion to ensure CRP compliance with Endangered Species Act provisions. This Biological Opinion gives predictability to CRP participants who voluntarily apply protective conservation practices for the lesser prairie-chicken so additional regulations may be unnecessary in the future.
The final rule for listing the lesser prairie-chicken as a threatened species and the special rule limiting regulatory impacts on landowners and businesses because of this listing will be effective May 12, 2014.
Visit the Fish and Wildlife Service website to learn more about the threatened lesser prairie-chicken.