Lesser Prairie Chicken Programs
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) has several programs that focus on habitat restoration efforts for lesser prairie chickens. Efforts funded through these programs are hoped to restore and increase the amount of suitable habitat for the lesser prairie chicken, and simultaneously, benefit farmers and ranchers who are interested in the program.
These programs provide assistance to help with the cost of selected practices. Counties offering sign-ups through the initiative include the following: Alfalfa, Beaver, Beckham, Cimarron, Custer, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Major, Roger Mills, Texas, Washita, Woods, and Woodward.
Brush management, prescribed grazing, upland wildlife habitat management, range planting, prescribed burning, firebreaks, and conversion to solar watering facilities are some of the practices that are approved under these programs and eligible for cost-share assistance.
Although the lesser prairie chicken is the primary focus of this program, farmers and ranchers benefit in that, “What’s good for the chicken is good for the cow,” which is a common phrase used to highlight the fact that management strategies used to benefit lesser prairie chickens will benefit diverse species. Additionally, lesser prairie chickens function as a “flagship species”, acting as a focal point to direct action, but in meeting those objectives providing habitat for many other native wildlife species (including quail, turkey, songbirds, and pollinators).
Lesser prairie chickens thrive in areas with a patchy grazing pattern and grazing at a low to moderate rate allows some of last year’s grasses to be carried into the following year providing prairie chickens with suitable amounts of cover for nesting structure. Grazing in this manner will yield a higher amount of quality grasses, increase the odds of making it through a drought, and require ranchers to use less supplemental feeding.
How to Participate
Counties offering sign-ups through the initiative include the following: Alfalfa, Beaver, Beckham, Cimarron, Custer, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Major, Roger Mills, Texas, Washita, Woods, and Woodward.
The ODWC will help by providing outreach and technical expertise, preparing habitat management plans and assisting in the monitoring efforts. For more information on lesser prairie chicken management, contact the Wildlife Department at (580) 571-5820.