Groups sue over lesser prairie chicken

The lesser prairie chicken is a species in the grouse family.

The habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken (LPC) grew by 7,500 acres after New Mexico announced it had purchased the land from NGL Energy Partners LP to benefit habitat for the bird, other grassland birds and the pronghorn. 

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) announced the partnership to buy the Pipkin Ranch, located about 40 miles southeast of Fort Sumner, was made possible through a public-private partnership with NGL Energy Partners and funds generated through the sale of fishing and hunting licenses. The purchase of the ranch expands the habitat of the LPC to 10,000 acres by connecting two existing properties.

ESA listing proposed for lesser prairie-chicken

Game Commission Chairwoman Sharon Salazar Hickey said, “Purchasing and maintaining property, such as this ranch, provide a great example of conserving wildlife habitat.” She added, “To the average eye, the Pipkin Ranch might look like rolling grassland with little value; but to the lesser prairie-chicken it is a chance for growth—an important conservation stronghold!”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the LPC’s distinct southern population, which includes populations in eastern New Mexico and across the southwest Texas Panhandle, as endangered. Under an endangered listing, development in habitats known to be critical to the prairie-chicken would be severely curtailed. 

Resource Science: The lesser prairie-chicken and the ESA

“I’d like to thank the sportsmen and sportswomen of New Mexico and our NGL partners for their contributions to conservation,” said NMDGF Director Mike Sloane. “This public-private partnership is an example of the positive work that can occur when we all recognize the value of conservation. I am excited to have been a part of this effort and believe that it will stand as an example going forward as we begin to implement the 30x30 initiative recently advanced by the governor.”

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced in August the 30x30 initiative to preserve 30 percent of the state’s lands and waters by 2030. Grisham’s executive order directed state agencies to utilize existing funding and programs to “conserve, protect and enhance lands and natural environments across the state in furtherance of the foregoing goal.” Grisham expressed support for public-private partnerships to conserve land throughout the state in her executive order. 

Utilizing grazing for lesser prairie-chicken conservation

Matthias Sayer, with NGL Energy Partners LP, said in a statement, “Given our land ownership and lease holdings in New Mexico, it was organic and natural that we engage with Game and Fish and started talking about wildlife conservation not only on our properties and those we manage, but across the state.” — Charles Wallace, WLJ editor

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