Approximately 27,090 acres belonging to the State Game Commission are now enrolled in a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA), an important step to allowing current activities on the state’s Prairie-Chicken Management Areas to continue should the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service list the Lesser Prairie-chicken as threatened or endangered. The Lesser Prairie-chicken is currently proposed for “threatened” status under the Endangered Species Act.
More than 4 million acres have entered into conservation agreements in New Mexico to aid in the conservation and management of the Lesser Prairie-chicken. New Mexico is one of five states working on a range-wide plan to conserve this species throughout its range.
Grant Beauprez, Lesser Prairie-chicken biologist for the Department of Game and Fish, said this is a long-term commitment by the Department and numerous local landowners to advance management actions that will minimize impacts to the species.
Such CCAAs played a major role in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determining last year that the dunes sagebrush lizard is no longer in danger of extinction and it will not be listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Implementation of the most recent agreement, said Beauprez, will allow Game and Fish to use practices which might otherwise be restricted if the species were listed under the Endangered Species Act, such as grazing and tree control to alter habitat to the benefit of the birds. “It also will allow us to remove or mark fences, remove all power lines, and reclaim roads and well pads, things of that nature,” Beauprez said. Other activities allowed under the agreement include hunting and wildlife watching.
Both the Lesser Prairie-chicken and the dunes sagebrush lizard occur on New Mexico’s windswept eastern plains. The Prairie-chicken, Tympanuchus pallidicinctus, is known for its spring breeding pageantry that includes stamping of its feet and inflating air-sacs on its neck.