The lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) (LPC) is a prairie grouse species native to the southern Great Plains. Historically, LPC ranged across eastern New Mexico, southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas, western Oklahoma, and western Texas. The LPC inhabits shinnery oak and sand sagebrush grasslands. Both males and females congregate at breeding grounds, called leks, where males engage in a unique, communal breeding display each spring to attract females. LPC and its habitat have declined mainly because of agriculture, livestock grazing, oil and gas development, and prolonged drought.
Because of the dramatic decline in numbers, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was petitioned to list the LPC as a federally threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). On December 11, 2012, the FWS published the proposed rule to list the LPC as threatened. Public hearings were held to allow citizens to voice their concerns on the upcoming listing decision. The public comment period ended March 11, 2013, and the decision on whether or not to list the LPC was to be made by September 30, 2013, but the FWS postponed the decision for six months. On March 27, 2014 the FWS determined that the LPC warranted listing the species as threatened under the ESA.
The lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) (LPC) is a prairie grouse species native to the southern Great Plains, including parts of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. The dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) (DSL), also known as the sand dune lizard, is a species native to a small area of southeastern New Mexico and west Texas. Both the LPC and DSL have been ruled warranted for listing as threatened or endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA), as amended (16 U.S.C. § 1531, et seq.). The ESA provides for the conservation of species that are endangered or threatened throughout all or a significant portion of their range, and the conservation of the ecosystems on which they depend. A listing would initiate regulatory and conservation responsibilities for federal, state, and private landowners. These responsibilities stem from Section 9 of the ESA that prohibits “take” (i.e., harass, harm, pursue, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, collect, or attempt to engage in any such conduct) of listed species. In addition to the Section 9 prohibitions, federal agencies must ensure that their actions will not jeopardize the continued existence of the listed species.
For several years the FWS, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and CEHMM worked together to develop a candidate conservation agreement to programmatically address the needs of the LPC and the DSL and the potential impacts a listing could have on land users. Landmark legal agreements were signed by federal and state authorities on December 8, 2008. The Candidate Conservation Agreement (CCA) and its companion Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) provide a mechanism to conserve LPC and DSL habitats. These agreements allow FWS, BLM, and CEHMM to work in cooperation and consultation with private land owners and industry in support of conservation measures.
The dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) (DSL), also known as the sand dune lizard, is a species native to a small area of southeastern New Mexico and west Texas. The DSL is a small light brown spiny lizard with stripes on the body. Their habitat includes large networks of shinnery oak and a sloping, sandy topography, where the lizards use "blowouts" as their primary microhabitat. Blowouts are sandy, bowl-shaped interruptions in the shinnery oak sand dune system which look like small meteor craters. The roots of the shinnery oak shrubs provide structure for the DSL’s burrows, where the lizards retreat when the sand surface is too hot or cold. Threats to the lizard include habitat removal, fragmentation and degradation as a result of oil and gas development and shinnery oak removal.
On December 14, 2010, the FWS published the proposed listing of the DSL as a federally threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) starting the twelve-month timeframe in which they would make a decision to either list the species as threatened or endangered, to not list the species, or to file a six-month extension to allow for more information to be collected. On December 5, 2011, the FWS posted in the federal register a six-month extension on the listing decision for the DSL. In June 2012, the FWS ruled against listing the DSL as threatened or endangered as a result of the conservation agreements that provide for the long-term conservation of the DSL.
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