The latest edition of The Boomer has been posted.
The Friends of Attwater Prairie Chicken Refuge have announced the 2015 Student Festival Art Contest. All artwork is due by February 1, 2015.
>>>Download Rules and Entry Forms
The Friends of Attwater Prairie Chicken Refuge strive to provide opportunities that will assist in developing a deeper appreciation for our refuge system, the prairie and all the species that call the prairie “home.” In an effort to bring nature into the classroom and the lives of future generations, The Friends of Attwater Prairie Chicken Refuge and Blisswood Bed and Breakfast are pleased to sponsor, “Discover your Prairie Neighbors” art contest. The contest, to be held through March 1, 2014, is open to students from kindergarten to grade 12 in Brazos ISD, Columbus ISD, Rice CISD & Sealy ISD.
ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT
It’s industry vs. lesser prairie chicken ASSOCIATED PRESS Printed in the Houston Chronicle 2/11/13
LUBBOCK — Oil, gas and wind energy producers are working to persuade federal wild-life officials not to enact protections for the lesser prairie chicken, a move that could force them to halt or significantly alter their operations to protect the species’ dwindling grassland habitat.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will hold its final public hearings this week on its proposal to list the prairie grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This comes after decades of population declines that experts blame in part on the expansion of farms, ranches and energy industry operations.
Even as wildlife advocates make their case, companies have been developing habitat conservation plans they hope will prevent the agency from taking such action. A similar strategy worked last year in Texas and New Mexico when the federal government considered protections for the dunes sagebrush lizard.
A federal listing would “make life more complicated for producers,” said Alex Mills, president of Texas Alliance of Energy Producers. “I am optimistic that our conservation efforts toward the bird and the habitat can be effective.” Spring mating season is usually the only time people can see lesser prairie chickens as males sing and strut across grasslands, displaying brilliant yellow-orange eye combs and puffing out their reddish-purple air sacs to attract females. But with the species’ numbers down about 80 percent since the early 1960s, spotting them even during courtship has become increasingly difficult.
More than half of the about 37,200 short-flight birds counted last year were spotted in Kansas, which still allows hunting of the birds. Texas banned such hunting in 2009 and Colorado already has listed the lesser prairie chicken as threatened. They’re also found in portions of New Mexico and Oklahoma.
Governors of these five states last month issued a statement opposing federal protections for the bird, noting voluntary conservation efforts by their paper writer states and commitments from industry leaders and landowners to address the issue.
But advocates for the lesser prairie chicken are concerned such plans would not be enforceable.
Lesser prairie chicken may get threatened listing. – November 30, 2012 http://www.chron.com/default/article/Lesser-prairie-chicken-may-get-threatened-listing-4080663.php
Landowners could cash in on effort to save prairie chicken By Matthew Tresaugue – December 7, 2012
Farmers and ranchers in the Texas Panhandle could see more green by cultivating habitat for the increasingly rare lesser prairie chicken. Under a novel plan, landowners willing to restore native grasslands for the grayish-brown grouse would sell credits to oil and gas companies and other developers to compensate for acres lost to roads, drilling rigs, transmission lines and wind turbines, among other projects. The Environmental Defense Fund’s plan, if successful, could nudge landowners toward conservation and produce enough habitat to reverse the bird’s decline without the Fish and Wildlife Service imposing special protections. If the federal agency formally classifies the species as threatened with extinction, as it proposed last week, the listing could restrict what farmers, ranchers and companies do on lands they own or lease. “It is a common story, with every listing there are arguments, conflicts and delays, and at the end of the day, we do not have the outcomes everyone wants,” said David Festa, vice president for land, water and wildlife at the Environmental Defense Fund. “These exchanges allow us to break the cycle.” The environmental group tested the approach as part of the recovery effort for the endangered golden-cheeked warbler in Central Texas. The Department of Defense paid nearby landowners to create and build habitat for the bird to replace areas harmed by training operations at Fort Hood.
Over the three-year program, the number of warblers grew while the cost per credit dropped, said David Wolfe, director of conservation science for the Texas office of the Environmental Defense Fund. Texas officials used the concept as part of a plan to protect the dunes sagebrush lizard in the oil-rich Permian Basin. The state’s plan, which features voluntary agreements with farmers, ranchers and oil and gas companies to conserve habitat, convinced federal officials last June the sand-dwelling reptile does not warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act. Debbie Hastings, executive vice president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association, said industry supported the plan. “We need access to the minerals, and this plan allows some flexibility to access them,” she said. Like the tiny lizard, the lesser prairie chicken sparks direct conflict with livestock grazing, oil and gas development and the construction of wind turbines and power transmission lines. But the grouse’s historical range is significantly larger than the reptile’s, stretching over Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. The Fish and Wildlife Service says the bird has lost nearly 90 percent of its habitat because of human encroachment. The imperiled creature lives only in vast native prairies and areas of low-growing shrubs with few trees or tall man-made structures where hawks and other predators can reside. The prairie chicken’s survival, federal officials say, requires at least four distinct “strongholds” of 25,000 to 50,000 acres of continuous, high-quality prairie. In Texas, nearly all its habitat is on land that is privately owned.
Credits vs. property
Clayton Wolf, director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s wildlife division, said farmers and ranchers might be more receptive to selling credits rather than property or conservation easements, which could place permanent limits on land use. “Not everyone is comfortable with easements because they do not want to tie the hands of their children and grandchildren, but they might be willing to sell credits,” Wolf said. “It could get people to do habitat improvements without selling outright.” But some farmers and ranchers are hesitant to sign up, citing mistrust of government and undefined goals for the prairie chicken’s recovery.
“I love wildlife, but I hate bureaucrats telling me what I can and cannot do,” said Mike Brumley, a third-generation Deaf Smith County rancher. Even though the proposed market would be voluntary, Brumley said he doubted it would help the species rebound. “It would just give some companies a pass,” he said. Mark Salvo, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians, a conservation group, said the market-based plan could be useful, but it is unlikely to be enough to alleviate the need to list the species as threatened. The exchange program must expand the amount of high-quality habitat available to the species and it must be in the right areas, he said. Even then, Salvo said, “listing offers more, and greater, benefits to protected species than an unregulated habitat program can provide.”
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Clair de Beauvoir / Associated Press The Environmental Defense Fund’s plan aims to increase the habitat range for the rare lesser prairie chicken, and thus perhaps avoid an endangered listing.
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NOTE: Attwater’s Prairie Chickens HAVE been seen recently on the auto tour route, usually late in the evenings just prior to sunset or early in the mornings.