U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Extends Effective Date for Lesser Prairie-Chicken Listing Under the Endangered Species Act
Jan. 31, 2023
Media Contact: TPWD News, Business Hours, 512-389-8030
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AUSTIN – Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials encourage landowners to take advantage of a 60-day U.S. Fish & Wildlife (FWS) endangered species listing extension and consider enrolling in one of the conservation programs that provide protections from federal regulations and exemption from consequences of incidental “take” under the Endangered Species Act.
Programs that provide these regulatory protections include the Texas Lesser Prairie-Chicken Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Working Lands for Wildlife — Lesser Prairie-Chicken Conservation Initiative and Predictability Plans.
FWS announced Jan. 23 it will delay the effective date of its final rule listing the lesser prairie-chicken under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), from Jan. 24 to March 27, 2023.
“This decision provides Texas landowners an additional opportunity to enroll in one of the conservation programs that provide regulatory protection from what would otherwise be a violation of the Endangered Species Act,” said TPWD Executive Director David Yoskowitz.
FWS stated it delayed the listing to allow additional time for it to finalize conservation tools and guidance documents, avoiding confusion and disruption for landowners, agency partners and industry within the lesser prairie-chicken’s five-state range.
“Although we believe that the listing decision jeopardizes years of voluntary conservation efforts by landowners and industry, we are obligated to make Texas landowners aware of options that could protect them from the negative consequences of incidental ‘take,’” said Executive Director David Yoskowitz.
The final ruling has identified two Distinct Population Segments (DPS) of the lesser prairie-chicken under the ESA. The FWS designated the Northern DPS, comprising seven counties in the northeast Texas Panhandle, as threatened, and the Southern DPS, comprising seven counties in the southwest Texas Panhandle, as endangered. The FWS also published a final 4(d) rule designed to allow landowners and land managers greater flexibility with compatible grazing operations to conserve the species.
This 60-day extension gives rangeland management experts more time to become an FWS-approved prescribed grazing planner for the Northern DPS under the 4(d) rule.
It also provides Texas landowners an additional opportunity to enroll in one of the conservation programs that provide assurances that landowners or managers operating under an approved conservation plan are exempt from incidental “take” of the lesser prairie-chicken under the ESA.
Conservation programs available across the Texas Panhandle include the Texas Lesser Prairie-Chicken Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Working Lands for Wildlife — Lesser Prairie-Chicken Conservation Initiative and Predictability Plans.
Additionally, landowners in the Northern DPS may be exempt from incidental “take” under the 4(d) rule by receiving a prescribed grazing plan written by a FWS-qualified party that accounts for site-specific conditions including, but not limited to, soils, precipitation and past management. The 4(d) rule exemption for prescribed grazing is not available for the Southern DPS.
Pre-listing enrollment in conservation programs that afford regulatory protection remains open until the new effective date of March 27, 2023. Landowners within the lesser prairie-chicken range that are interested must contact the TPWD Panhandle Wildlife District by March 26 to initiate the CCAA enrollment process prior to the effective date.
Landowners interested specifically in the Texas Lesser Prairie-Chicken CCAA should contact Brad Simpson, TPWD Panhandle Wildlife District Leader, (806) 651-3012 or Russell Martin, TPWD Panhandle Wildlife Diversity Biologist, (806) 452-9616.
Additional information regarding the lesser prairie-chicken or available programs can be found here https://www.fws.gov/lpc, and a list of FAQs are available on the USFWS Lesser Prairie-Chicken Listing FAQs website.