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BLM acquires land to protect prairie chicken

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 7, 2012 at 2:54 pm •  Published: December 7, 2012

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) — The area of protection for the lesser prairie chicken in New Mexico is expanding.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management acquired 1,789 acres of land in eastern Chaves County earlier this month that will become part of a larger, special management area for the member of the prairie grouse family. The BLM had sought the help of the Conservation Fund to consolidate land and raise funds to purchase land and grazing permits.

"We hope that other private land owners will be inspired by today's announcement and will work with federal, state and non-profit partners to establish similar strongholds for this species throughout its range," Benjamin Tuggle, the southwest regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said Friday.

The chicken's range includes parts of New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Fish and Wildlife is conducting a review to determine whether the lesser prairie chicken should be formally listed as a threatened species. Ranchers, farmers and wind farm operators worry about a listing because it could increase regulations. Wind turbines, oil wells and fences are among the culprits scientists say have caused the chicken's decline.

A final decision on the listing is expected by November 2013.

Nearly 85 percent of the chicken's grass and brush-land habitat has been affected by ranching and farming. Most of it is on private land.

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