The Lesser Prairie Chicken in Oklahoma
The lesser prairie chicken is identified as a species of greatest conservation need in Oklahoma and is a candidate for federal listing as threatened, range-wide. The sand shinnery and sand sagebrush native rangelands of northwest Oklahoma are crucial for survival of this species. The same area also provides some of Oklahoma′s most abundant sources of energy including wind, oil and natural gas. Efforts to harvest this energy are projected to rapidly intensify over the next few years.
Researchers have found that lesser prairie chickens, particularly nesting hens, avoid vertical structures because they are often used as perches by predators such as hawks, eagles and owls. Habitat fragmentation caused by a number of factors including transmission lines, roads and highways, buildings and tree encroachment into prairie habitats, as well as conversion of native rangeland to cropland or non-native vegetation, can all be detrimental to lesser prairie chickens. Steps are being taken to avoid endangering Oklahoma′s few remaining lesser prairie chickens.
The unique habitats found in northwest Oklahoma are invaluable to wildlife as well as to wind energy development, so the Wildlife Department and energy developers have to work together to ensure that our state′s wildlife heritage remains strong.
Measures available to help conserve the lesser prairie chicken
1. The Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative - Efforts funded through the initiative 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.
2. Lesser Prairie Chicken Habitat Conservation Program - designed to help private landowners develop, preserve, restore, enhance and/or manage wildlife habitat on their land
3. Wildlife Credits Program - offers stewardship payments to agricultural producers for work done to protect and expand habitat for the rare upland bird. Is made possible with an agreement between the Wildlife Department, Oklahoma Conservation Commission and the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts. - Application / Enrollment information will be available soon.
4. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances Program (CCAA) - can provide landowners with assurances against certain liabilities and federal restrictions in the event that the lesser prairie chicken is listed as an endangered species. The CCAA is a voluntary program, and no incentive payments to landowners are issued by the Wildlife Department for participation in the program. Rather, landowners agree to perform certain habitat work to benefit lesser prairie chickens in exchange for the assurances provided under the program. When a species is listed as federally endangered or threatened, additional federal regulations and oversight can apply to landowners that may affect what happens on their property or how it may be used. Additionally, conservation measures accomplished through the program could help altogether halt the listing of the species. To apply for the program please download and fill out this form. Additional enrollment information can be found here.
5. Range Wide 5 State Lesser Prairie Chicken Model - The Western Governors Association Southern Great Plains Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (SGP CHAT) is the result of phase one of a three-year WGA Wildlife Council project, led by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. The purpose of the project is to model crucial habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken (LEPC) throughout its historical range create an online tool usable by conservation managers, industry, and the public that identifies priority habitat, including connecting corridors that can be used in the early stages of development or conservation planning.
7. Oklahoma Lesser Prairie Chicken Conservation Plan - A cooperative effort is currently underway to develop a conservation plan to address the decline of the lesser prairie chicken in Oklahoma. The conservation plan will identify management strategies to improve lesser prairie chicken population viability through habitat improvement, emphasizing tools and incentives to encourage landowners to partner with agencies in conservation efforts while achieving their land use needs.
8. Lesser Prairie Chicken Crude Oil And Natural Gas Development Voluntary Best Practices For Oklahoma - These Oil and Gas Best Management Practices were approved by the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association (OIPA). This is a dynamic document and subject to change as new research is conducted and industry practices are developed.