Federal wildlife officials seek comment on lesser prairie-chicken conservation plan

Federal wildlife officials are moving forward in their process to pursue further protections of the lesser prairie-chicken, with potential implications on the region’s oil and gas industry.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comment on a draft habitat conservation plan (HCP) and draft environmental assessment covering potential impacts to the lesser prairie-chicken from oil and gas development in West Texas and across much of the Great Plains, the agency announced in a news release Thursday.

This comes amid renewed federal efforts to list the lesser prairie-chicken in the Endangered Species Act. The lesser prairie-chicken’s natural habitat includes the Permian Basin, South Plains and Panhandle regions, along with a wide swatch of the central U.S.

The HCP would cover all activities associated with oil and gas development across the lesser prairie-chicken’s range in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico, according to a news release from the FWS.

LPC Conservation, LLC has prepared the proposed plan in support of an application for an incidental take permit for the lesser prairie-chicken.

The HCP for the lesser prairie-chicken is a planning document designed to promote the bird’s conservation while providing regulatory certainty for oil and gas development across its range, should it become listed under the Endangered Species Act in the future. Under the plan, industry participants will work with LPC Conservation, LLC, the permit administrator, to purchase Service-approved mitigation to offset their project’s impacts to the lesser prairie-chicken and its habitat on a voluntary basis. 

“This plan will result in strategic conservation for the lesser prairie-chicken by offsetting impacts from enrolled oil and gas development,” Amy Lueders, Service Southwest Regional Director, said in a statement. “Collaborations like this play a vital role in conserving imperiled species and their habitats while providing needed certainty to support development.”

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