The lesser prairie chicken population in the High Plains is stable.
As the Topeka Capital-Journal reports, the latest aerial survey by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies points to stability in the breeding population of lesser prairie chickens at a time when numbers of the birds concentrated in parts of five U.S. states expanded most notably in northwest Kansas’ short-grass prairie region.
The survey estimated the breeding population in Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas increased to 33,200 birds this year, compared to 25,200 in 2016, 29,100 in 2015 and 23,300 in 2014.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the bird as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in March 2014, after the population dropped to 17,000 in 2014.
State and federal politicians disagreed with the decision because the listing’s potential to restrict land use by ranchers and energy companies in areas that once supported larger populations of the birds.