USDA Unveils Three-Year Conservation Strategy for Lesser Prairie-Chicken on Working Rangelands
April 28, 2016
Conservation Makes Working Lands More Productive and Resilient
Just like in sage grouse country, the recipe for success to save the lesser prairie-chicken (an iconic grassland bird of the southern Great Plains) is investing in proactive, collaborative conservation efforts on private lands. Since 95 percent of the lesser prairie-chicken’s range is under private ownership, voluntary conservation is key on the prairie, as it also is on the sagebrush sea.
Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a three-year conservation strategy that will guide the voluntary restoration of 500,000 acres of habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken, an iconic grassland bird of the southern Great Plains. The bird has historically suffered from population declines. This strategy is part of an ongoing science-based strategic effort by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to restore grassland and prairie ecosystems while enhancing grazing lands in five states.
“Across the country, we’re seeing firsthand how farmers, ranchers and forest landowners are voluntarily stepping forward to aid wildlife species,” NRCS Chief Jason Weller said. “By adopting conservation systems, agricultural producers in the southern Great Plains can restore top-notch lesser prairie-chicken habitat while also making working lands more productive and resilient to wildfire and climatic extremes.”
NRCS Assistant Chief Kirk Hanlin made the announcement today at Hashknife Ranch in Kansas where the Koger family has worked to conserve habitat on their property through the Sage Grouse Initiative’s sister initiative, the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative, part of the agency’s Working Lands for Wildlife partnership. Since 2010, LPCI has helped conserved more than 1 million acres of high-quality habitat in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico and Colorado.
By the end of 2018, this science-based strategy will guide the restoration of another half-million acres by focusing on addressing key threats to the bird, such as degraded rangeland health, invasive conifers, cultivation of grazing lands, and lack of fire in grassland habitats.
Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $29 billion to help producers make conservation improvements, working with as many as 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect land and water on over 400 million acres nationwide.
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.