CEHMM - Conservation

CEHMM is dedicated to improving wildlife habitat with holistic management approaches that not only benefit two particular species of concern, the lesser prairie-chicken and the dunes sagebrush lizard, but also provides environmental enhancements that are beneficial to all organisms in those habitats.

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.

In June 2012, the FWS ruled against listing the DSL as threatened or endangered under the ESA.  This decision was based largely in part to the conservation efforts that the CCA/CCAA put into practice.  However, on March 27, 2014, the FWS listed the LPC as threatened under the ESA, in response to the rapid and severe decline of the LPC.  Under the law, a threatened listing means the species is likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future; it is a step below endangered under the ESA and allows for more flexibility in how the ESA protections are implemented.