The agency announced last December that it was beginning a yearlong review to determine whether the bird should be listed as a threatened species. Federal protection limits the kind of activity that can be conducted in a species' habitat.
The lesser prairie chicken once thrived in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, but its historical range of native grasslands and prairies has been reduced by an estimated 84 percent, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. The population declined by an estimated 50 percent last year, primarily due to drought conditions in the West, the agency said Wednesday.
The conservation plan by the five range states would provide financial incentives to landowners who take steps to protect the species, and it includes a framework for reducing the harmful effects from economic activity; the service said the plan is consistent with criteria proposed by the service in May.
Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said he was encouraged that the agency endorsed the five-state conservation plan. However, he said he was “deeply troubled” that the Obama administration left open the possibility of a federal listing.
The administration “should be allowing states, agriculture, property owners and job-producing industries to continue working on conserving the lesser prairie chicken while simultaneously allowing for multiple use of private lands in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, and Colorado,” Hastings said.