A plan to recover an imperiled desert fowl was approved by the federal government this week to allow development of lands in eastern New Mexico while also protecting the species from extinction.
If put to use, conservationists hope the approved habitat conservation plan (HCP) could restore populations of the lesser prairie chicken (LPC) which was once believed to number in the hundreds of thousands but recent data show dwindled recently as low as 1,500 birds in New Mexico.
Oklahoma-based conservation bank LPC Conservation authored the plan tailored to renewable energy, transmission and communication tower developments and what owner can do to build and operate such facilities while protecting the chicken.
It would insulate landowners from litigation, transferring liability to LPC Conservation.
The plan was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, per a Dec. 2 announcement, and it could be enacted immediately.
Conservation banks are designed to set aside lands for wildlife conservation by working with private landowners and offering them “market-based” rates to purchase the land and set it aside as a stronghold for animals like the lesser prairie chicken.