Service seeks public comment on lesser prairie-chicken habitat conservation plan for oil and gas development in Great Plains
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 oil and gas development in the Great Plains.
The HCP would cover all activities associated with oil and gas development 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 the bird’s conservation while providing regulatory certainty for oil and gas development 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 Service-approved mitigation to offset their project’s impacts to the lesser prairie-chicken and its habitat on a voluntary basis.
“This plan will result in strategic conservation for the lesser prairie-chicken by offsetting impacts from enrolled oil and gas development,” said Amy Lueders, Service Southwest Regional Director. “Collaborations like this play a vital role in conserving imperiled species and their habitats while providing needed certainty to support development.”
The HCP will be administered by LPC Conservation, LLC, a special purpose entity owned by Common Ground Capital, LLC of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Restoration Systems of Raleigh North Carolina and a major equity investor who is active in the energy and real estate space across the country.
Wayne Walker, CEO of LPC Conservation, said, “Our team is excited to provide an option for the oil and gas industry to participate in a best in class conservation plan that will deliver desperately needed strategic conservation strongholds and restoration for the lesser prairie-chicken, which will ultimately help in the recovery of this species contingent upon industry participation.
“We believe using a market-based business model is the best way to secure the desired outcomes for all involved to finally deliver quantifiable conservation benefits to the LPC. The species is a key indicator of the health of these southern Plains Ecosystems. LPC Conservation offers a legally defensible permit that should be of interest to this industry.
“We are grateful to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its leadership and execution to achieve this milestone. We are also eager to continue to work with major conservation NGOs, and interested states, in a transparent and collaborative manner as we work to implement this HCP.”
Working with an array of 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. HCPs anticipate, prevent, and resolve controversies and conflict associated with project-by-project permitting. Programmatic HCPs, like the one being proposed, address issues on a regional scale, collaboratively and over the long term.
The lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) is a species of prairie grouse that occupies a five-state range including portions of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. Lesser prairie-chicken populations need large tracts of relatively intact native grasslands and prairies to thrive.
For more than two decades, the Service has prioritized efforts with our partners to employ all available tools to facilitate the conservation of the lesser prairie-chicken. On June 1, 2021, the Service proposed listing two distinct population segments of the lesser prairie-chicken under the Endangered Species Act. The Service will evaluate all new information gathered during the recent public comment period and make a final determination on the proposed listing by June 1, 2022.
Early this year, the Service approved LPC Conservation, LLC’s HCP and associated incidental take permit for renewable energy development in the Great Plains.
The Service is accepting public review and comments on the incidental take permit application, the draft HCP and draft Environmental Assessment. A notice of availability will publish in the Federal Register on Feb. 11, opening a 30-day public comment period which will end on March 14. Information on how to submit comments will be available at https://www.federalregister.gov/ by searching under docket number FWS-R2-ES-2021-N195.