Prairie chicken public comment period extended
Last updated 8/3/2021 at 4:12pm
The public will have a month longer to weigh in on the proposed listing of the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is extending the deadline for public comment to Sept. 1 for the grouse, which has seen its populations dwindle from 2 million in the 1800s to about 38,000 across five states because of climate change, industrial development and agriculture.
In late May, federal wildlife managers proposed relisting the bird - known for its colorful spring mating display - to comply with a court order spurred by conservation groups suing the agency. A 60-day comment period that began June 1 will increase to 90 days.
The proposal calls for listing the bird’s southern population, including in eastern New Mexico, as endangered and those occupying the northern rangelands as threatened.
Its habitat can be found in parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
An abrupt 50 percent drop in the bird’s numbers in 2014 prompted the agency to list the bird as threatened that year. But two years later, a brief 25 percent surge in population led to a federal judge removing protections in response to a lawsuit by a petroleum company.
Environmentalists have pushed for renewed federal protections while the oil and gas industry has staunchly opposed relisting the grouse, saying the voluntary programs to protect and grow the birds’ habitat are working.
Wildlife officials say the lesser prairie chicken faces a number of external threats, including from climate change prolonging droughts, especially in the southern region where the bird could become extinct.