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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

June 9, 1998

Charles Scott 918/581-7458 x232
Erich Langer 918/581-7458 x225



Protection of the lesser prairie-chicken under the Federal Endangered Species Act is justified but other species in greater need of protection must take priority in the listing process, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today.

The Service’s "warranted but precluded" finding means the species becomes a candidate for future listing and that its status must be re-evaluated in one year. If listing of the lesser prairie-chicken remains warranted but is not precluded by higher priority listings, the Service will then issue a proposal to add the animal to the endangered species list.

North American grassland birds have experienced a steeper and more widespread decline than all other groups of birds. The lesser prairie-chicken is one member of a grassland community, and its decline may signal that the overall health of the grasslands is suffering. Healthy native rangeland, required by the lesser prairie-chicken, is also good for the long-term sustain ability of cattle ranching.

The range occupied by lesser prairie-chickens has declined markedly over the last 100 years. Although absolute numbers of birds are difficult to determine, data maintained by state wildlife agencies in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas suggest a substantial decline in the prairie-chicken population.

Large-scale conversion of native prairie to cultivated cropland and extensive drought in the early part of this century caused a serious decline in prairie-chicken habitat; a brief recovery occurred after the 1930s, but the animal’s numbers have since dwindled. It is estimated that the occupied range of the lesser prairie-chicken has been reduced by more than 90 percent compared to pre-settlement conditions.

"Conservation of grasslands on the southern High Plains is key to saving the lesser prairie-chicken," said Nancy Kaufman, Regional Director of the Service’s Southwest Region. "Our interest is to help ensure that this unique species remains viable. We will actively seek voluntary conservation partnerships with landowners."

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