USFWS approved range-wide habitat conservation plans for lesser prairie-chicken

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced it has approved range-wide habitat conservation plans to provide legal assurance of compliance with the Endangered Species Act for the lesser prairie-chicken for the oil and gas industry.

The USFWS approves conservation banks that meet quality standards defined by guidance published by USFWS for the LPC in July 2021.

The habitat conservation plan is designed to allow for the responsible development of oil and gas in the Great Plains while also contributing to the conservation of the lesser prairie-chicken, the agency said.

The Endangered Species Act requires all incidental take permits to include HCPs that describe the anticipated effects of a proposed taking and how those impacts will be minimized or mitigated.

The HCP will cover oil and gas development across the lesser prairie-chicken’s range in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, the agency said. LPC Conservation LLC’s HCP will fully offset impacts from enrolled projects while providing regulatory certainty for oil and gas development across its range, should the lesser prairie-chicken become listed under the ESA in the future.

Along with the final HCP, the USFWS is publishing a final Environmental Assessment that evaluates the effects of issuing the ITP and addresses comments received during the public comment period. Full implementation of the HCP is expected to potentially affect 500,000 acres of suitable lesser prairie-chicken habitat. Under the plan, industry participants will work with LPC Conservation LLC to ensure projects minimize impacts to the lesser prairie-chicken and mitigation is in place to voluntarily offset their project’s impacts to the species and its habitat. The HCP and ITP will be in effect for 30 years.

Earlier this year, the agency approved LPC Conservation LLC’s HCP and associated ITP for renewable energy development in the Great Plains.

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