TPWD News Release — Aug. 6, 2009
LUBBOCK, Texas — A new brochure titled "A Shared Future" details how the lesser prairie-chicken is an indicator of rangeland health and part of the West Texas heritage, how it could affect agriculture and rural property if the bird is listed as threatened or endangered, and what landowners and others can do to conserve wildlife habitat and safeguard the region’s economy, outdoor recreation opportunities and natural legacy.
"Many conditions are at work that makes us wonder; will the lesser prairie-chicken go the way of the passenger pigeon?" asks an early brochure section. "The lesser prairie-chicken symbolizes a vanishing heritage, and there are also many practical reasons private landowners should pay attention to what this bird is telling us. For in fact, what’s good for the lesser prairie-chicken is, in many cases, good for landowners and their business."
The 12-page, color publication emerges at a time when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether to place the bird on the federal threatened or endangered species list. It was published by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department using hunter dollars from sales of the Upland Game Bird Stamp through a contract with the nonprofit Dorothy Marcille Wood Foundation of Fort Worth.
The brochure points out that lesser prairie-chickens evolved by utilizing rangeland that was naturally stable, vigorous, sustainable and highly productive, "exactly what livestock producers want to reap the most lasting benefits from their land."
It explains that if the lesser prairie-chicken is listed as threatened or endangered, that could have a direct impact on agricultural business. Limitations imposed by the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) could affect day to day operations involving livestock production, including limiting some common activities. Further, oil, gas and wind energy production could be directly impacted if the bird is listed, as ESA rules could affect the locations and scope of these activities.
The scale used to identify urgency of threat to a Candidate Species runs from 12 to one, with one being almost certain that a species will be listed as threatened or endangered. The lesser prairie-chicken recently rose on this scale from an eight to a two.
For all these reasons, the brochure points out how "it is in the best interest of the private landowner to be in the game instead of a bystander."
The federal wildlife service and state wildlife department have developed a program to work with West Texas private landowners in the lesser prairie-chicken range. This Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) allows landowners to utilize conservation options and protect themselves from restrictive land use policies that may arise if/when the lesser prairie-chicken is listed.
The CCAA is voluntary and offers landowners a place at the table, as well as resources to help in future land use planning. This program has the goal of working with landowners to reduce threats, thereby stabilizing and increasing lesser prairie-chicken populations. The ultimate goal is to eliminate the need for listing altogether. The brochure goes on to detail how the CCAA works and how landowners can participate.
The publication also explains how the unique native prairies that inspired early cattle producers to settle in the High and Rolling Plains looked much different than today’s rangeland plant communities. And it details how today, enlightened ranchers have discovered that a healthy habitat for both livestock and wildlife can significantly enhance land values and production.
"Rangeland and water issues also go hand in hand in lesser prairie-chicken country," the brochures states, noting how dropping aquifer levels, surface water availability, and water quality problems can degrade habitat for lesser prairie-chickens and other wildlife. Conversely, healthy native grasslands are good for prairie-chickens and water resources, helping to naturally hold and filter rainfall and encourage underground aquifer recharge.
"It is important that people involved in all types of agriculture have a sustainable proposition to offer," said Jim Weaver, a rancher quoted in the brochure. "This will be beneficial in the long run both for wildlife, and for the people that actually have to take care of this country."
The brochure concludes by listing government agencies and other organizations that offer landowner assistance to develop management and conservation plans for soil, plant, livestock, water, and wildlife resources, as well as sources of conservation grants and financial incentives for private landowners.
To obtain a brochure, contact Laura Wood with the Dorothy Marcille Wood Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org or (817) 716-3963.
More information about wildlife conservation for private landowners is on the TPWD Private Lands Program Web page.
PHOTOS for news media use showing the lesser prairie chicken in the wild, plus birders in a blind viewing prairie chickens, and a signing ceremony to complete the CCA, are available as high resolution .jpg files in the News Images area of the TPWD Web site.
Founded in 1988, The Dorothy Marcille Wood Foundation seeks to strengthen the impact of Texas public and non-profit organizations in their communities, by assisting them in their outreach, communication and fundraising goals, primarily focusing on conservation. The foundation works with retired NRCS biologist Charles Coffman for wildlife management technical guidance, and Tracey S. Dunford for graphic design. Laura Wood of Fort Worth is the executive director, and the foundation is named in honor of her grandmother, Dorothy Marcille, a hard-working West Texas rancher from Tom Green County.
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