Service Finalizes Range-wide Conservation Agreement to Aid Lesser Prairie-Chicken on Oil and Gas Lands
For Immediate Release
February 28, 2014
DENVER — Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) signed the Range-wide Oil and Gas Industry Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken (LEPC CCAA). The Service also released an accompanying environmental assessment (EA). The agreement is the result of longstanding cooperation between the Service and the five range states of the lesser prairie-chicken—Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico—to undertake conservation action for the species, which is proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The LEPC CCAA incorporates measures to address impacts to the lesser prairie-chicken from oil and gas activities on non-federal enrolled lands. Oil and gas operators can voluntary enroll lands into the CCAA. On undertaking certain actions that impact the lesser prairie-chicken or its habitat, the participants will be required to pay mitigation fees. Funds generated through these fees will enable implementation of conservation actions on enrolled lands elsewhere.
“This landmark agreement between the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies shows how cooperation between federal and state government agencies and private oil and gas operators can help advance conservation objectives while considering the economic needs of the nation,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “It is also another example of how flexibility in the Endangered Species Act helps us address the complex issues often associated with protecting our rarest wildlife and their habitats.”
The mitigation fee structure and conservation actions in the LEPC CCAA follow recommendations contained in the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan, a conservation strategy developed by WAFWA and endorsed by the Service in October 2013. The range-wide plan provides for an incentive-based conservation program along with a mitigation framework to fully offset impacts and provide additional conservation for the lesser prairie-chicken.
Oil and gas operators enrolled in the LEPC CCAA will receive assurances that the Service will not impose further commitments or restrictions on them in relation to the lesser prairie-chicken during the term of their enrollment, even if the species becomes listed under the ESA. The anticipated term of the LEPC CCAA is 30 years, but oil and gas operators can enroll for shorter periods.