lesser prairie-chicken initiative

The Kansas Farm Bureau with support from the Kansas Corn Growers Association is working to put a price tag on saving the prairie chicken. Their message is economic disaster. Jim Sipes is a farmer in Stanton County. There’s been a large reduction in the amount of intent to drill permits that began prior to the drop in oil prices. Sipes says the decrease is largely due to the $46,000 to $83,000 mitigation fee per drilled well companies have to pay for disrupting the bird’s habitat. He says it’s even worse for the wind industry. Three projects have been stopped, and the mitigation fee for each wind tow is $400,000 to $1 million depending on the value of the habitat. There’s also a fee for transmission lines which is roughly $870,000 a mile. These costs are associated with the species having the threatened tag. If the chicken is listed as endangered, it will change everything.


Kyle Dillard, a Milnesand, NM, rancher is taking advantage of an NRCS program. He's a cow/calf man in eastern New Mexico - right in the middle of a large Lesser Prairie-Chicken population.

J.N. Stuart/Flickr Commons

The lack of fire as a management tool on the Great Plains has permitted indigenous and foreign woody plants to encroach on prairie grasslands, reducing Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitat. Through the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative, NRCS can help producers and range managers remove woody invasive species – through burning, cutting and spraying. We tell one Oklahoma Panhandle rancher's experience participating in the NRCS initiative.


Jordan Shearer
Beaver Co. Rancher
Slapout, OK

Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Healthy rangelands help the long-term sustainability of the landowner and the Lesser Prairie-Chicken.

Practices that bolster the bird's habitat  are also good for ranching, and can lead to improved rangeland health. NRCS provides technical and cost-assistance for grazing management programs under the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative.


Christian Hagen
Science Advisor
NRCS LePC Initiative
Bend, OR

Jon Ungerer
Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative Coordinator
Marysville, KS


We visit a couple ranchers in the Oklahoma panhandle who are participating in the NRCS Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative.

J.N. Stuart/Flickr Commons

Clay Cooper signed the first Lesser Prairie-Chicken conservation plan in Texas, through the Natural Resources Conservation Service "Working Lands for Wildlife" partnership -- an agreement with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Gov. Sam Brownback recently announced that Kansas is joining a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the designation of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species according to a recent article in the Wichita Eagle.


The sprawling Weaver Ranch near Causey, NM, is located in important Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitat. Ranch manager Willard Heck talks about removing 400-500 acres of mesquite plant that had encroached onto prairie land, fragmenting the bird's habitat.

Texas Wildlife and Parks / Gary Kramer

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has partnered with hundreds of groups to restore and link back together the Lesser Prairie-Chicken's eastern New Mexico habitat. Crews are removing petroleum welljack pads and service roads, reseeding with native grasses, and removing other vertical objects like mesquite, trees and old windmills in effort to restore a habitat more friendly to the needs of the bird.


Scientists researching the population declines of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken say the bird's habitat has been damaged by vertical structures and human activity like road-building and oil and gas mining. Vertical structures include mesquite and other woody invasives, which the bird is averse to nesting near.

As of early-2013, much of the High Plains region is under extreme or exceptional drought. Ungerer, Crouch and Hagen discuss the significance of enrolling grassland in the NRCS Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative.


Land manager Tom Turner of St. John, KS, manages grazing land in west-central Kansas in the sandhills south of Kinsley. Owing to sandy soil composition the grassland is fragile.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Parts of the 2013 Farm Bill remained unresolved, but sections concerning conservation programs - like the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative - were funded through FY2013 at the end of 2012.


Playa Lakes Joint Venture's Policy Director Barth Crouch updates status of the 2013 Farm Bill. He says most ections of the legislation pertaining to conservation were funded through fiscal year 2013 in the so-called "fiscal cliff" negotiations at the end of 2012.