Within the lesser prairie-chicken’s range, predatory birds are more abundant in prairie grasslands with mesquite cover than in open grasslands. Photo courtesy of New Mexico State University.
For many, one of the New Year’s first big chores is to remove a tree from inside their home. Trees, beautiful and useful as they are, do not belong everywhere. Such is the case with trees and other woody species that are expanding into the Western grasslands.
Over the years, woody species like juniper, pinyon pine, redcedar and mesquite have encroached on grassland and sagebrush ecosystems, altering these landscapes and making them unsuitable for native wildlife like the lesser prairie-chicken and greater sage-grouse. Encroaching conifers also degrade rangelands for agricultural producers whose livestock rely on nutritious forage. Read more »
Lesser prairie-chickens benefit from lands where a rancher is using prescribed grazing, according to a new report. Photo courtesy of Nick Richter.
Habitat conservation practices make a difference for lesser prairie-chickens. That’s the finding of a recent scientific study – the first part of a multi-year study – described in a new report from the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI).
LPCI, led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), works with partner organizations and ranchers to improve habitat and address threats to the bird. Since 2010, more than 1 million acres of habitat have been restored on working lands. Read more »
Photo of prairie after redcedars are removed.
A new study offers the first empirical data proving that female lesser prairie-chickens avoid grasslands when trees are present. The study, highlighted in a Science to Solutions report by the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI), underscores the importance of removing woody invasive plants like redcedar to restore grassland habitat. The new data will help guide USDA’s conservation efforts.
Though sometimes called the “green glacier” for its steady progress across the prairie, redcedar encroachment is far from glacial in speed. Open grasslands can become closed-canopy forest in as little as 40 years, making the land unsuitable to lesser prairie-chickens and other wildlife. Read more »
Learn more about prairie chicken conservation efforts by downloading this new report, Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative: Conservation across the Range. Click to download the report.
Cattle and lesser prairie-chickens both need healthy rangeland to thrive. Through voluntary conservation efforts, farmers and ranchers in the southern Great Plains can restore habitat for this iconic bird while strengthening working lands.
The Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI), a partnership led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), works to enhance lesser prairie-chicken habitat one ranch at a time. A number of the initiative’s successes are highlighted in a new report called the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative: Conservation across the Range. Read more »
A recent survey commissioned by WAFWA shows lesser prairie-chicken numbers climbed 25 percent between 2014 and 2015. NRCS photo.
The population of the lesser prairie-chicken is on the rise, according to survey results released last week by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA). Based on aerial surveys, biologists estimate the lesser prairie-chicken numbers about 29,000, a 25 percent increase from 2014.
WAFWA commissioned the annual survey, which showed increases in three of the four ecoregions the bird inhabits. The sand sage prairie region of southeastern Colorado showed the biggest gain with about a 75 percent increase between 2014 and 2015. Read more »
Christian Hagen, science adviser for LPCI, and Bill Barby (right), a Kansas rancher, monitor growth of sand bluestem and other native grasses on his 4,000-acre ranch. NRCS photo.
By Sandra Murphy, Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with ranchers and partners to improve habitat for lesser prairie-chicken through the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI). Focusing on privately-owned lands, the initiative covers five western states. About 95 percent of lesser prairie-chicken habitat is located on private lands. Sandra Murphy is communications specialist for LPCI, a partnership led by NRCS. — Justin Fritscher, NRCS
On a late April morning in southwest Kansas, sand bluestem sways over rancher Bill Barby’s head. A medley of other native grasses — little bluestem, sand lovegrass, and prairie sandreed, and more — fill the pasture around him, providing food for his cattle as well as habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken, a threatened species. Read more »