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U.S. Fish and Wildlife extends effective date for lesser prairie chicken listing

Extension allows more time to develop agency-approved grazing management plans.

January 31, 2023

2 Min Read
lesser prairie chicken
EXTENSION FOR LISTING: Kansas Livestock Association reports that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will extend the effective date of the final rule regarding the listing of the lesser prairie chicken to March 27. This will allow more time for agency-approved grazing management plans to be put together. Nattapong Assalee /Getty images

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. The effective date will be extended by 60 days this year, from Jan. 24 to March 27.

According to FWS, during the extension period, FWS will continue working with interested parties to establish agency-approved grazing management plans that are required for those in the northern DPS. Southeastern Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and the northeast Texas Panhandle will be included in this segment and subject to a 4(d) rule, which will only provide exemptions for take associated with grazing practices that follow a management plan developed by an agency-approved third party. The southern DPS, which will cover New Mexico and the southwest Texas Panhandle, will be listed as endangered. Incidental take in this area is not covered by the 4(d) exceptions.

The extension also will allow industry stakeholders more time to participate in or expand voluntary conservation efforts before the primary nesting season of the species. Finally, it will allow for additional pre-listing enrollment in approved conservation tools and plans, including Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances and Habitat Conservation Plans.

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Recently, Kansas State University Research and Extension wildlife specialist Drew Ricketts explained what the designation of the lesser prairie chicken as an endangered species means to western Kansas agriculture producers and landowners. 

In Kansas, he notes, the lesser prairie chicken — a prairie grouse — is primarily found in the western third of the state.

“So if you own land, or are conducting activities that could result in taking a lesser prairie chicken in the western third of Kansas, then I think it’s important to look at some of the maps and resources [to] … know whether or not you’re included in that area,” Ricketts said. 

Ricketts said “take” is a very specific term in the Endangered Species Act that refers to harming, harassing, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing or collecting — or attempting to engage in any such conduct. 

“If you know that there are lesser prairie chickens on your land or a neighbor’s land, then you need to be careful,” Ricketts said.

The protections for the bird do not apply to land that is already being cultivated, Ricketts said. “So, we can still apply the herbicides that we normally do for agriculture land. We can use whatever tillage practices we normally do and all those sorts of things. That land is considered non-habitat [for the lesser prairie chicken] because it is actively being farmed.”

For Ricketts’ full explanation of what farmers and ranchers need to know about the designation of the lesser prairie chicken, watch his full interview on “Agriculture Today” below:

Sources: Kansas Livestock Association and Kansas State University Research and Extension

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