The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is delaying the effective date of the final rule to list two Distinct Population Segments (DPS) of the lesser prairie-chicken under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service is extending the effective date by 60 days, from Jan. 24, 2023, to March 27, 2023.
The extension will allow the Service to finalize conservation tools and guidance documents to avoid confusion and disruption for landowners, federal partners, and industry within the lesser prairie-chicken’s five-state range.
The Service published a final rule listing two Distinct Population Segments of the lesser prairie-chicken under the ESA on Nov. 25, 2022. The final rule listed the Southern DPS of the lesser prairie-chicken as endangered and the Northern DPS as threatened. The Service also published a final 4(d) rule designed to conserve the Northern DPS of lesser prairie-chicken while allowing greater flexibility for landowners and land managers.
During the extension period, the Service will continue working with interested parties to establish Service-approved grazing management plans. These plans are necessary under the 4(d) rule to allow compatible grazing operations to continue to work with lesser prairie-chicken conservation efforts. In addition, the extension will allow industry stakeholders more time to participate in or expand voluntary conservation efforts before the primary nesting season of the species. Finally, the extension of the effective date will allow for additional pre-listing enrollment in the suite of Service-approved conservation tools and plans, including Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances and Habitat Conservation Plans aimed at protecting the species while providing certainty for industry and landowners.
The Service is not accepting public comment on the extension. A Federal Register notice extending the effective date of the final listing for the lesser prairie-chicken will publish on Tuesday, January 24 under docket FWS-R2-ES-2021-0015.
The lesser prairie-chicken is a species of prairie grouse commonly recognized for its colorful spring mating display and stout build. Once numbering in the hundreds of thousands, its population has declined significantly, largely due to habitat loss and fragmentation across the southern Great Plains. The lesser prairie-chicken currently occupies a five-state range that includes portions of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.
For more information, please visit https://www.fws.gov/lpc.