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"Threatened" listing of lesser prairie-chicken's impact on the panhandle

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Amarillo, TX - Panhandle area Industries and Landowners are probably wondering Friday, what it means now that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the lesser prairie-chicken as "Threatened".

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Service says there is no need to panic now that the lesser prairie-chicken is considered to be "Threatened".

The word used most to describe the lesser-prairie chicken's listing is...disappointment.

"As a Texas Park and Wildlife representative, we are a little disappointed in that listing decision, we were hoping that we could avoid that decision with some conservation efforts that we have been working on the last two years," said Calvin Richardson who is the Panhandle District Leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

"Well, I'm disappointed is the short version, there was really an unprecedented amount of voluntary efforts to protect habitat and to hopefully prevent government regulations and yet the government decided to regulate anyway,"  State Representative Mac Thornberry said.

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has put together a lesser prairie-chicken Range-Wide Conservation Plan, which is an effort with four other states to revive the bird's habitat.

The plan continues to be in place despite the new listing.

"It really doesn't change very much at all for Industry or for the Landowner given that these conservation programs are in place, they can still obtain regulatory insurances, industry can still pursue production activities as long as they follow some guidelines and try to minimize impacts," said Richardson.

Since the bird is only listed as "Threatened" the WAFWA Range-Wide Conservation Plan can stay in place and continue to be regulated by the states.

However, if the lesser prairie-chicken becomes listed as "Endangered" then the government would take over regulation.  

"The bird's been listed as "Threatened", that doesn't mean the plan is not still useful, it is still going to be used and implemented," Ken Cearley who is and Extension Wildlife Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Services said.

Texas Parks and Wildlife says Industries and Landowners may continue to voluntarily sign-up for the Range-Wide Conservation Plan.
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