Access Midstream Partners LP is teaming with conservationists to help protect the habitat of the lesser prairie chicken in Oklahoma.
The bird was listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as threatened in March, but that ruling allowed states to manage conservation efforts with minimal disruption to energy production, agriculture and other activity.
Oklahoma offers landowner incentives to help defray the cost of habitat improvements, which is where Access comes in.
The Oklahoma City-based pipeline company will donate an undisclosed amount of money to the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts to help mitigate habitat loss and aid in the species’ recovery.
“We appreciate the opportunity to partner with groups that share our vision of environmental responsibility and preservation,” said Jimmie Hammontree, Access Midstream’s manager of regulatory affairs.
The association is a nonprofit organization representing 88 conservation districts across Oklahoma and others dedicated to such work.
President Kim Farber said he was pleased to have Access join the association’s efforts to help landowners restore the lesser prairie chicken’s habitat.
“Even though this species has been listed as threatened instead of endangered, we still need to do what we can to take it completely off the list,” Farber said. “By providing incentives to help farmers and ranchers improve the habitat of this species hopefully we can help in this effort.”
Executive Director Clay Pope said the incentive program can be a boon to participating farmers and ranchers, who have volunteered to make habitat changes necessary to preserve the lesser prairie chicken, a species of grouse.
“Any help we can give farmers and ranchers willing to do this work is money well spent,” Pope said. “If we can improve the habitat and possibly help delist this species someday, we should continue doing these types of projects.”
The lesser prairie chicken lives in grasslands of northwest Oklahoma and surrounding states. Drought and habitat loss have caused its population to shrink to about 17,000 birds.