Source: USDA NRCS
Habitat improvements for the lesser prairie chicken are growing as more voluntary conservation planning support through Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) is being developed in partnership with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), working through the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) along with the Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) in the state.
The TSSWCB conducted meetings in Lubbock and Canadian the week of Feb. 16 with project partners and private landowners who serve on local soil and water conservation districts boards to get the planning project fully underway.
Since the lesser prairie chicken was listed as threatened in 2014, this emerging project has gained support in the action areas (mostly in the High and Rolling Plains) to further efforts of habitat improvement through conservation planning.
Private landowners who implement an NRCS conservation plan can receive a letter from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service exempting them for up to 30 years from any incidental take of the species that may inadvertently be caused by the implementation and maintenance of conservation practices within their approved plan.
NRCS State Conservationist Salvador Salinas and TSSWCB Executive Director Rex Isom attended the meetings to address employees and private landowners involved in the process.
“The main goal here is to help farmers and ranchers through the partnership,” Isom said.
The TSSWCB will be employing individuals with conservation planning experience to oversee the project.
NRCS will be working through the soil and water conservation districts to assist in the program efforts. “This offers a good opportunity for landowners through our partnership,” Salinas said. “When good range management practices are employed over the long term, they produce better land conditions for cattle grazing and better habitat for the Lesser Prairie Chicken and many other wildlife species.”
Technical assistance for private landowners will include the development of a detailed site specific resource inventory of their property.
More than 528,000 acres of habitat for the lesser prairie chicken have been improved so far using voluntary conservation practices. Now, through the Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) Endangered Species Act and Predictability planning, more private landowners who voluntarily request technical assistance for conservation planning and implementation of practices can improve their habitat and gain predictability.
“The current partnership has over 40 active requests for 300,000 acres within the action areas, and we are in the process of completing 10 conservation plans on 40,000 acres,” said Darren Richardson, NRCS assistant state conservationist in Lubbock. “Although the process takes time for field personnel to complete the forage and resource inventories, it’s a self-certification process for private landowners or producers who want to improve habitat and maintain the practices for the life of the plan.”
NRCS is urging landowners and producers in the action areas to use the free services to help them implement voluntary conservation measures that not only protect wildlife habitat but also enable them to continue making a living from farming or ranching.
For more information about the Working Lands for Wildlife conservation planning opportunities contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District or NRCS office in USDA Service Center.
Source: USDA NRCS