Nov. 23 (Reuters) – The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week its decision to list two distinct population segments (DPS) of the smaller prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act, according to a service release.
“This decision was made after reviewing the best available scientific and commercial information on past, present and future threats, ongoing conservation efforts and more than 30,000 public comments received during the public comment period and two virtual public hearings,” it said in the press release.
Grant Beauprez, a small-time prairie chicken biologist with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, answered questions posed by The News Monday.
“This listing includes prairie chickens in eastern New Mexico and the western part of the Texas Panhandle,” Beauprez wrote in an email. “The northern segment of the population — in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and the northeastern Texas Panhandle — has been listed as threatened.”
“The service reviewed the latest scientific evidence and proposed adding the two populations to the Endangered Species Act in May 2021. The listing process was completed just last week. The service chose the above lists due to habitat loss, low population numbers and increasing human development in the bird’s native range.”
When asked if humans hunt these chickens, he said, “Smaller prairie chickens have not been hunted in New Mexico since 1995.”
The news asked how the ruling would affect eastern New Mexico.
“First and foremost, development projects must consider the impact their actions will have on smaller prairie chickens and their habitat,” he wrote. “You must work with the service to conduct a consultation process to mitigate and/or prevent any potential impact.”
He said smaller prairie chickens are important because they are “a very beautiful, interesting and charismatic species. Prairie chickens are also an important species in the prairie ecosystem. They are a good indicator of the health of this system. In addition, many people who enjoy wildlife come from across the country to watch the birds, which in turn brings money to the local economy.”
When asked how the humans can help the species survive, he said they could “work with the service and the department to ensure their actions are not adversely affecting the prairie chicken and to implement conservation measures that will help restore bird populations.” contribute.
“Many ranchers have already helped by enrolling in various conservation programs, including the service’s Candidate Conservation Agreements, which benefit prairie chickens by improving their habitat through grazing programs, invasive species control and infrastructure changes.
“The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is currently evaluating how to continue working on public lands, with private landowners, and with industry to continue decades of prairie chicken conservation efforts related to the recent listing,” he wrote.
Attempts to solicit comment from the US Fish and Wildlife Service were unsuccessful.