Conservation Matters April 2012

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

NRCS announces lesser prairie chicken wildlife conservation efforts

Lesser prairie chickensPrivate landowners and operators in the Southern Plains and Panhandle regions of Texas have an opportunity to apply for a new conservation funding source announced recently by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, according to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announcement.

The Working Lands for Wildlife partnership creates a $33 million partnership with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to use innovative approaches to restore and protect the habitats for wildlife, including seven at-risk species and other vulnerable game species.  

The targeted at-risk species in Texas, the lesser prairie chicken, is a ground-nesting bird native to the rangelands of Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Lesser prairie chicken populations declined dramatically during the past several decades due to loss of native prairie, habitat fragmentation and degradation of habitat on both private and public lands, according to the news release.

In 2011, NRCS launched the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative (LPCI) to focus technical and financial resources on improving lesser prairie chicken habitat. Working Lands for Wildlife will provide additional targeted funding to help farmers and ranchers enhance, restore and protect the habitat.

"The aim of the program is to focus available conservation dollars and wildlife expertise on the recovery of this at-risk species," said Salvador Salinas, state conservationist for the NRCS in Texas.

Through the LPCI and Working Lands for Wildlife, NRCS offers landowners up to 75 percent financial assistance for the installation of conservation practices that promote healthy grazing lands and are also beneficial for the lesser prairie chicken. These practices include prescribed grazing, upland wildlife habitat management, brush management, prescribed burning and range planting and obstruction removal. 

Texas agriculture producers may sign up to manage and restore high-priority habitats for the lesser prairie chicken within the eligible Texas counties, which include: Ochiltree, Lipscomb, Roberts, Hemphill, Gray, Wheeler, Donley, Collingsworth, Deaf Smith, Parmer, Bailey, Lamb, Cochran, Hockley, Yoakum, Terry, Gaines and Oldham. Applications are available at local NRCS offices, and are due April 30. Applications within the priority habitat areas will receive highest consideration.

NRCS partners with local soil and water conservation districts, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in these efforts.

For more information, read the full NRCS press release, visit the Texas NRCS website at tx.nrcs.usda.gov or contact a local NRCS office.

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