Lesser prairie-chicken habitat could get a boost from private sector plan

May 13th, 2021

Finding a solution to provide reliable habitat for lesser prairie-chickens while balancing the interests of farmers and ranchers has gained traction from advocates who believe a win-win can occur with a market-based approach to pay landowners for easements to benefit the lesser prairie-chicken.

Wayne Walker, CEO of Common Ground Capital LLC, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who is familiar with farming and ranching operations as he and his brothers own a west Texas agricultural operation, wants to provide private sector solutions for species mitigation programs to work with ranchers and landowners to preserve and restore habitat. The goal is to get acres certified with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and sell credits to energy developers to offset impacts to bird’s habitat. Walker said the credits not only help energy developers who purchase the credit by providing them coverage under the Endangered Species Act if the LPC is listed and helps with the species because it ensures long-term habitat protection and restoration in the areas where the bird needs it most.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has published a proposed range-wide habitat conservation plan for public comment that closes on May 14 and that takes into account the needs for wind, solar, electric transmission and distributions lines and communication towers. It allows for a market-based option versus conventional pre-determined payments under existing conservation programs.