Mack Kizer remembers seeing lesser prairie chickens on his family ranch in eastern New Mexico growing up. He said his children and grandchildren also have seen the birds on the ranch since childhood and he hopes they can continue to enjoy the unique animal’s presence long into the future.
As the bird’s population dwindles, Kizer’s family is one of a group of landowners who have entered into agreements that allow them to be paid to preserve lesser prairie chicken habitat on their ranch.
The bird’s habitat has become more and more fragmented. The birds living in eastern New Mexico and its neighboring section of Texas are now isolated from birds farther north in places like Oklahoma and Kansas.
This month, the lesser prairie chicken’s southern population will join the list of animals in the United States that are considered endangered. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in November that the bird would be added to the list. The endangered species status goes into effect 60 days after a notice is published in the Federal Register. That puts the status going into effect next week.