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KS Biological Survey to play major role in lesser prairie chicken plan

Kevin Rolle flickr/creative commons

The Kansas Biological Survey at KU has been awarded a $2.1 million contract to play an essential role in the Lesser Prairie Chicken Range-Wide Conservation Plan, a program resulting from the bird being listed as an endangered species in May of last year.  Companies that enroll in the plan, pay mitigation fees and follow recommended conservation measures are exempted from provisions of the Endangered Species Act and protected from penalties.

Under the contract, The Kansas Biological Survey, will provide the central GIS and database support for the effort, tracking locations and costs of projects affecting habitat as well as conservation projects.  The work covers all five states included in the plan: Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.  Of these, Kansas has the highest Lesser Prairie Chicken population.

The plan encourages in-field development or project clustering to minimize new impacts on the species.  Project clustering examples include setting several wells in a smaller area rather than spreading them out, or siting them near existing roads or transmission lines that already affect habitat.  

Conservation measures are also established by the plan.  These include discouraging drilling of new wells during breeding season if chickens are known to be in the area, limiting noise levels on new pumps and generators, putting flags on new fences and burying new electrical distribution lines in prairie chicken areas.

Since the species was listed as threatened, the plan has enrolled more than 10 million acres and collected more than $27 million in mitigation fees to establish a long-term endowment to pay private landowners for habitat conservation.