Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Special Rule under Endangered Species Act Endorsing Landmark State Conservation Plan for Lesser Prairie-Chicken
December 2013 Following months of landmark cooperation between the Service and the five range states of the lesser prairie-chicken, the agency is taking the next step in supporting state efforts to conserve the species and its habitat. The Service will accept comments for 30 days on a proposed revised 4(d) special rule that would exempt from regulation under the ESA activities harmful to the prairie-chicken (“take”) if incidental to carrying out the state-developed range-wide lesser prairie-chicken conservation plan, in the event the species warrants listing as “threatened” under the ESA. The proposed revised 4(d) special rule would also exempt take incidental to landowner participation in the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative. Public comments will be accepted until January 10, 2014.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endorses Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-Wide Conservation Plan
Range-wide plan provides model for State leadership in conservation of a
species proposed for listing under the ESA
October 2013 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endorsed the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-Wide Conservation Plan, a landmark, collaborative planning effort to conserve a species proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Range-Wide Plan represents a dedicated effort by the five range states of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado to conserve the lesser prairie-chicken, a species proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
Service Announces a 6-Month Extension of the Final Listing Determination for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken
Agency seeks additional information from public, scientific community
July 2013 The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced a 6-month extension of the final determination of whether to provide protection under the Endangered Species Act for the lesser prairie-chicken. The Service is taking this action in order to solicit additional scientific information and public comment before making a final listing determination. Publication of this announcement will reopen the comment period on the proposed rule to list the species for 30 days.
Section 4(b)(6) of the Act requires that the Service takes one of three actions within one year of a proposed listing: (1) Finalize the proposed listing; (2) withdraw the proposed listing; or (3) extend the final determination by not more than 6 months, if there is substantial disagreement regarding the sufficiency or accuracy of the available data relevant to the determination, for the purposes of soliciting additional data.
Public comments received by the Service since the publication of the proposed rule have expressed concerns regarding the sufficiency and accuracy of the data related to the listing proposal for the lesser prairie-chicken. Therefore, in consideration of these disagreements the Service is extending the final determination for 6 months in order to solicit scientific information that will help to clarify these issues. The Service will make a final listing determination for the lesser prairie-chicken no later than March 30, 2014.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Reopens Comment Period on Lesser Prairie-Chicken Listing Proposal
Agency seeks additional information from public, scientific community to inform final decision and continues conservation efforts with partners
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the reopening of the public comment period on its 2012 proposal to add the lesser prairie-chicken to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The public comment period will be reopened for 45 days to allow an opportunity for the public, the scientific community and other interested parties to provide input on the original listing proposal in light of a newly-released range-wide conservation plan for the species. The conservation plan was drafted by the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Working Group, in association with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. A copy of the plan is available at http://www.wafwa.org/documents/AprilDraftLEPCPlanSubmittedUSFWS04_02_2013.pdf.
The reopened comment period also allows the public to review and comment on a proposed special rule that, if approved, would foster conservation of the lesser prairie-chicken and give landowners across the species’ range additional flexibility to manage their land, should the species require protection as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The proposed special rule, issued under Section 4(d) of the ESA, would allow take of lesser prairie-chicken incidental to activities carried out through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative and activities included in comprehensive prairie-chicken conservation programs developed by or in coordination with the state fish and wildlife agencies. The 4(d) rule would only be implemented if the lesser prairie-chicken were to be listed.
Public comments will be accepted until June 20, 2013. Comments may be submitted in one of the following methods:
(1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS–R2–ES–2012–0071, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!”
(2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R2–ES–2012–0071; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
Public Hearings Being Held on the Listing Proposal for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) will conduct four public hearings to obtain comments on the Service’s proposal to list the lesser prairie-chicken as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (Act). Public hearings will be held in Woodward, Oklahoma; Garden City, Kansas; Lubbock, Texas; and Roswell, New Mexico.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Initiates Process to Consider Lesser Prairie-Chicken
As "Threatened" Species Under the Endangered Species Act
November 2012 Agency seeks information from public, scientific community to inform final decision; continues work with states on voluntary conservation agreements
Based on scientific evidence that the lesser prairie-chicken and its habitat are in decline, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it is initiating a process to consider whether the species should be recognized as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
The Service will make a final determination on whether to add the lesser prairie-chicken to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife based on the best available science. Members of the public and scientific community are encouraged to review and comment on the proposal during the 90-day public comment period.
State conservation agencies, in partnership with federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Land Management and partners such as the Sutton Center, are working on a range-wide, voluntary conservation planning effort that will play a significant role in conserving lesser-prairie chicken habitat.
Service Announces a Draft Environmental Assessment on an Application for an Enhancement of Survival Permit for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) will announce on Monday, June 25, 2012, a Notice of Availability (NOA) of a draft Environmental Assessment (dEA) on an application for an enhancement of survival permit under Section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act (Act) of 1973, as amended for the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus). The application was submitted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). A 60-day public comment period will begin upon publication of the NOA in the Federal Register.
The permit application includes a draft Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) between ODWC and the Service for the lesser prairie-chicken in Oklahoma. The draft CCAA would be in effect for 25 years in Alfalfa, Beaver, Beckham, Cimarron, Custer, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Major, Roger Mills, Texas, Washita, Woods and Woodward counties, Oklahoma.
Kansas State University Research and Extension Interview Series
K State Research and Extension is doing a series of interviews regarding the lesser prairie-chicken. Michelle Shaughnessy, Region 2, Assistant Regional Director for Ecological Services, was featured on the July 17, 2012 show.
To listen to Michelle's interview and others, click HERE.
WHAT IS A LESSER PRAIRIE-CHICKEN AND WHY IS U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE INTERESTED IN THE CHICKEN?
The lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) is a species of prairie grouse that occupies a five-state range including portions of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. The species is state listed as threatened in Colorado, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) identified the species as a candidate for Federal listing in 1998.
The lesser prairie-chicken is commonly recognized for its feathered feet and stout build. Plumage of the lesser prairie-chicken is characterized by a cryptic pattern of alternating brown and buff-colored barring. Males display brilliant yellow-orange eyecombs and reddish-purple air sacs during courtship displays.
Lesser prairie-chicken populations need large tracts of relatively intact native grasslands and prairies to thrive. Threats to the lesser prairie-chicken include habitat loss, modification, degradation, and fragmentation within its range.
WHAT ACTIONS IS THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE UNDERTAKING RELATED TO THE LESSER PRAIRIE-CHICKEN?
Over the next year, the Service will look at the status of the lesser prairie-chicken, threats to the species and conservation efforts and develop a listing proposal which will be published in the Federal Register no later than September 2012. The Service will use the best available science to develop the proposal. A determination of whether to list the species as threatened or endangered will depend on the full assessment of the status of the lesser prairie-chicken.
Initiation of the listing proposal process for the lesser prairie-chicken is a part of the terms of a multi-year listing work plan approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on September 9, 2011. This work plan, developed through a settlement agreement with WildEarth Guardians and a separate, smaller settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, will enable the agency to systematically, over a period of six years, review and address the needs of more than 250 species now on the candidate list, to determine if they require ESA protection. A list of these species is available at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/improving_ESA/listing_workplan.html.