Lesser Prairie Chicken- One of the Endangered & Threatened Species

Lesser Prairie-Chicken- Endangered and Threatened Species

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have added two distinct populations of rare dancing grouse that inhabit areas of the Mountain West to the Endangered Species Act's list of threatened and endangered species.

Lesser Prairie-Chicken or Tympanuchus pallidicinctus is now one of many species protected by the Endangered Species Act. The bird is found across a region that spans into five states— Texas Panhandle, eastern New Mexico, western Kansas, southeastern Colorado, and western Kansas. The decision to list the species under the ESA unfolded after a thorough analysis of the past, present, & future threats and current conservation initiatives in the concerned regions.

Lesser prairie-chicken

Image credit: FWS

According to officials, eastern New Mexico and the southwest region of Texas (Southern DPS) are at risk of extinction. Meanwhile, southeastern Colorado, south-central to western Kansas, western Oklahoma, and the northeastern Texas Panhandle (Northern DPS) are vulnerable to going extinct in the near future.

Lesser prairie chickens once roamed approximately 100 million acres of the United States.

But habitat destruction and displacement have wiped out the population. Today, the habitat of this species has reportedly decreased by 90%. Further, USFWS’ 2012 to 2022 aerial surveys have estimated lesser prairie-chicken populations to be 32,210, a five-year lesser average over the five-state region. The agency stated that the decrease is a reflection of the broader reduction in the strength and adaptability of surrounding ecosystems. Federal officials assert that voluntary conservation efforts have not been able to outweigh the dangers despite the preservation steps.

According to Amy Lueders, Southwest regional director for USFWS, the population shrink of the lesser prairie-chicken is a reminder that our native grasslands and prairies are in distress. “These habitats support a diversity of wildlife and are valued for water quality, climate resilience, grazing, hunting, and recreation,” said Lueders.

The agency is continuing to collaborate with interested parties to create voluntary conservation alliances that will safeguard the lesser prairie chicken and the native grasslands while ensuring the continuation of ranching, agriculture, and other operations, as well as the promotion of renewable energy sources. 

The official summary from The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: 

We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), are listing two Distinct Population Segments (DPSs) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act), as amended, for the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus), a grassland bird known from southeastern Colorado, western Kansas, eastern New Mexico, western Oklahoma, and the Texas Panhandle. We determine the threatened status for the Northern DPS and the endangered status for the Southern DPS. This rule adds the DPSs to the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. We also finalize a rule under the authority of section 4(d) of the Act that provides measures that are necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of the Northern DPS.

The listing will go into effect in mid-January, 2023— you can read the complete document listing here.

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