HomeScienceWildlifeFederal wildlife officials list lesser prairie chicken as threatened in Kansas

Federal wildlife officials list lesser prairie chicken as threatened in Kansas

Federal conservationists have listed the iconic little prairie chicken as endangered in its Kansas habitat, the The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced this on Thursday.

The bird is in even greater trouble in the Southwest, where it will be listed as endangered.

The list comes after years of fighting by conservationists to protect the bird, which can be found in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. The Center for Biological Diversity sued in October said USFWS moved too slowly after that who proposed the listing a year and a half ago.

The little prairie chicken, which lives in western Kansas prairie grasses and shrubs, once numbered in the hundreds of thousands. But U.S. conservationists estimate that 90% of the habitat the birds once inhabited is gone, and only about 32,000 little prairie chickens remain.

“The decline of the little prairie chickens is a sign that our native grasslands and prairies are in danger,” USFWS regional director Amy Lueders said in a press release. “These habitats support a diversity of wildlife and are valued for their water quality, climate resilience, grazing, hunting and recreation.”

The listing means that USFWS believes the birds in their southern range – New Mexico and the southwest Texas Panhandle – are near extinction and are at risk of becoming endangered in the northern part of their home – Kansas, Oklahoma and northeastern Texas Panhandle.

USFWS said it will work with states to determine areas of critical habitat for the birds.

Protecting the little prairie chicken is one a source of controversy in Kansas for many years. Little prairie chickens thrive in strips of unbroken patches of native grass. Attempts to conserve habitat for the birds can be seen as a threat to farmers, ranchers and energy producers.

Both U.S. senators from Kansas opposed the list proposed by USFWS last year.

USFWS has worked with nearly 900 landowners to preserve prairie for the birds on approximately 1.6 million acres, according to the press release.

Animal control officials previously listed the little prairie chicken as endangered in 2014, but saw that reversed by court order.

In 2019 three conservation groups sued the federal government to force a decision on the little prairie chicken. The groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, claimed the Department of the Interior and USFWS violated the Endangered Species Act by not ruling on a 2016 petition to list the birds.

Little prairie chickens are iconic for their unique mating ritual. Each spring, males dance in an attempt to attract chickens. Michael Robinson, senior conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement that “this is great news for these fascinating birds and the overlooked and much-exploited prairies where they live.”

“We wish the Fish and Wildlife Service hadn’t delayed this protection for 27 years because faster action would have resulted in many more little prairie chickens living in many more places today,” Robinson said. “We will closely monitor the next steps to ensure that strong protection is also in place for the wild places where these birds live.”

Must Read
East Texas Ag News: City Wildlife
RELATED ARTICLES

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments