Thursday, January 30, 2014

Landowners in prairie chicken areas offered deal

The federal government is offering first-of-its-kind legal protections for landowners who implement conservation measures to protect the lesser prairie chicken's dwindling populations across five states. The prairie chicken is found in parts of Eastern Eddy County. The move is designed to ease the concerns of landowners, ranchers and the energy industry that they would no longer be able to operate in the bird's habitat if the prairie grouse is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The agreement could also serve as a model for other areas where industry and landowners could be impacted by a threatened or endangered animal. The deal is simple: Those who take steps to conserve and preserve habitat will receive a letter guaranteeing they will not be fined or prosecuted if lesser prairie chickens are found dead on their property. "As long as they continue to implement the ... conservation plan then they have nothing to fear from the Endangered Species Act or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," Dan Ashe, the wildlife service's director, told The Associated Press. The wildlife service is expected to announce by March 30 whether to list the lesser prairie chicken as a federally protected threatened species, impacting the plains of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma. The pending decision has prompted vocal opposition and sparked a broad state-run initiative designed to conserve areas in hopes of avoiding a federal listing for the bird. The federal offer is a unique agreement between the wildlife service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service. The agencies will have conservation practices outlined and agreements available in the coming weeks. To enter an agreement, landowners would have to undertake specific conservation measures, such as keeping the grasses long enough to hide nests, clearing brush and building ramps in cattle water troughs to ensure the birds don't drown. Grants could help cover the costs. The prairie grouse was once abundant in its five-state region, but its historical home of grasslands and prairies has been reduced by an estimated 84 percent as development converted habitat to other uses. When federal regulators first proposed in December 2012 to list the bird under the Endangered Species Act, there were fewer than 45,000, according to the wildlife service. A recent survey counted 18,000. Drought and loss of habitat are blamed for the decline...more

Don't know all the details, but doubt this a "first-of-its-kind" agreement.  It sounds like the Safe Harbor Agreement program of the USFWS; more specifically their Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances.  Those programs are limited to private landowners.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is called the "bend over" deal when you sign up for it. Just guess on who will be coming out to monitor your private land T&E species...the greens who the F&WLS hire to do their dirty work. You can bet the science will not be in your favor.