Theresa Davis, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
April 13th, 2021
Energy development and severe drought have left the colorful grouse with few pockets of prairie in New Mexico.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must decide by May 26 whether the bird should again be added to the endangered species list.
A federal listing could mandate species protection practices from ranchers, farmers and energy companies in the bird’s five-state range.
Tish McDaniel, a grouse biologist, said the “ebb and flow” species depends on a habitat of ample grass and shrubs in the shinnery oak ecosystem.
“The health of the prairie chicken is kind of the health of the prairie,” she said. “If the prairie chicken’s not doing well, the prairie’s not doing well. And there’s not much out here right now.”
The lifelong Portales resident helped establish the 28,000-acre Milnesand Preserve for the birds as part of her career with the Nature Conservancy.
“All of our grassland bird species are important, and they’re in trouble,” McDaniel said. “I’ve been watching prairie chickens all my life. It would be a shame if people didn’t get to see that any more.”
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