Healthy Range Is Productive Range For Sage Grouse, Prairie Chickens, And Cows

lesser prairie chicken

October 19, 2016

Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative shows how range conservation practices are benefiting birds and producers in the southern Great Plains

Sage grouse and lesser prairie-chickens both need healthy rangeland to thrive. So do cattle. Through voluntary win-win conservation efforts similar to those we use through the Sage Grouse Initiative, farmers and ranchers in the southern Great Plains can restore habitat for the iconic bird of the southern Great Plains, too.

Like the Sage Grouse Initiative, the NRCS’ conservation efforts for the lesser prairie-chicken are part of the agency’s Working Lands for Wildlife partnership, which directs public and private conservation investments to improve struggling landscapes while strengthening agricultural operations.

Learn more about conservation strategies that benefit producers and lesser prairie-chickens by clicking this image.

Learn more about conservation strategies that benefit lesser prairie-chickens by clicking this image.

The NRCS-led Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative is working to enhance lesser prairie-chicken habitat one ranch at a time. About 95 percent of lesser prairie-chicken habitat is on privately-owned lands, making these conservation efforts crucial to the bird’s rebound. The bird, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated as threatened in 2014, numbers about 29,000. The goal is to boost the bird’s population to an average of 67,000 over a 10-year period.

Since 2010, farmers and ranchers have made conservation improvements to 1 million acres of the southern Great Plains to benefit this upland bird. Like SGI, this initiative helps landowners implement sustainable grazing systems and remove invading woody species to restore the native ecosystem.

Lesser prairie-chickens benefit from conservation practices like prescribed grazing. Photo by Nick Richter.

Lesser prairie-chickens benefit from practices like prescribed grazing. Photo by Nick Richter.

A number of the initiative’s successes — including stories from participating landowners — are highlighted in a new report called the “Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative: Conservation across the Range.”

In addition, LPCI released this Science to Solutions report that evaluates the effectiveness of a new methodology used to assess lesser prairie-chicken populations. This new monitoring model incorporates both bird abundance as well as their habitat occupancy (i.e. the presence or absence of the birds across their large range). The results of the study indicate that when lands are enrolled in LPCI programs — like prescribed grazing or other practices that improve range health — the likelihood of lesser prairie-chickens occupying that habitat increases considerably. 

We’re proud of our partners to the southeast, and their collaborative efforts to make a difference for the sage grouse’s close cousin.

Learn more about the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative



The Sage Grouse Initiative is a partnership-based, science-driven effort that uses voluntary incentives to proactively conserve America’s western rangelands, wildlife, and rural way of life. This initiative is part of Working Lands For Wildlife, which is led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.