From the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:
Once found in abundant numbers across much of the five states of Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, the lesser prairie-chickens’ historical range of native grasslands and prairies has been reduced by an estimated 84 percent. The State of Colorado has listed the species as threatened. The Service first identified the lesser prairie-chicken as a candidate for ESA protection in 1998.
The Service is working with the five states to encourage voluntary conservation of the species and its habitat. Conservation agreements are currently in place in Texas and New Mexico, with another under development in Oklahoma. Additional partnerships between federal agencies and private landowners are contributing to restoring, reconnecting and conserving habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken. Most significantly, the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Lesser Prairie Chicken and Working Lands for Wildlife initiatives have provided funding and technical assistance to private landowners seeking to improve habitat for the prairie-chicken.
The Service continues to work with partners and private landowners to develop voluntary conservation agreements that will protect the lesser prairie-chicken and the native grasslands on which it depends, while assuring that ranching, agriculture and other economic activities can continue regardless of whether the species is listed.
The proposal is part of the Service’s efforts to implement a court-approved work plan that resolves a series of lawsuits concerning the agency’s ESA listing duties. The intent of the agreement is to significantly reduce litigation and allow the agency to focus its resources on the species most in need of the ESA’s protections.
The lesser prairie-chicken is a species of prairie grouse commonly recognized for its feathered feet and stout build. Plumage of the lesser prairie-chicken is characterized by a cryptic pattern of alternating brown and buff-colored barring. Males display brilliant yellow-orange eyecombs and reddish-purple air sacs during courtship displays.