Fish and Wildlife Services seeks lesser prairie-chicken habitat plan for renewable energy regions

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeks public comment on a draft habitat conservation plan and draft environmental assessment covering potential impacts to the lesser prairie-chicken from renewable energy development in the Great Plains.

The HCP would cover wind and solar project development as well as transmission lines across the lesser prairie-chicken’s range in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.

LPC Conservation, LLC has prepared the HCP in support of an application for an incidental take permit for the lesser prairie-chicken. The HCP for the lesser prairie-chicken is a planning document designed to promote its conservation while providing regulatory certainty for the development of renewable energy across its range should it become listed under the Endangered Species Act in the future. Under the plan, industry participants will work with LPC Conservation, LLC, the permit administrator, to purchase mitigation permits to offset their project’s impacts to the LPC and its habitat on a voluntary basis.

“Through this collaborative process, LPC Conservation, LLC will help offset the impacts to the lesser prairie-chicken resulting from enrolled projects by protecting, enhancing and restoring land of relatively high ecological value to species,” said Amy Lueders, service southwest regional director. “At the same time, industry participants who enroll will receive regulatory certainty should the LPC become listed under the Endangered Species Act. Using the many flexible tools of the ESA to work with landowners and diverse stakeholders allows us to both conserve wildlife and provide needed certainty that supports development.”

Working with diverse stakeholders is essential to the service’s conservation work and success. The Service regularly engages diverse conservation partners, landowners, government agencies, industry and the public to identify innovative win-win strategies for conserving and recovering protected wildlife, plants and their habitats and supporting local economies.

The lesser prairie-chicken is a species of prairie grouse that occupies a five-state range including portions of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. LPC populations need large tracts of relatively intact native grasslands and prairies to thrive.

For more than two decades, the service has prioritized efforts with partners to employ all available tools to facilitate the conservation of the lesser prairie-chicken. In response to a September 2016 petition, the service is currently reevaluating the lesser prairie-chicken’s status under the ESA. A 12-month finding will be completed in the spring of 2021 per a settlement agreement. The 12-month finding will not be a decision on listing the species, but rather a determination of whether a formal listing proposal, conducted through notice and public comment, is warranted.

A notice of availability will publish in the Federal Register on April 14, 2021, opening a 30-day public comment period. Information on how to submit comments will be available at by searching under docket number FWS–R2–ES–2020–N125.