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Conservation Practices for Lesser Prairie Chicken Habitat

The below NRCS management practices are the general standards used for developing a management plan. The Range-wide Conservation Plan utilizes more restrictive standards for prescribed grazing and brush management than the NRCS practices when mitigation payments are awarded. You can find more information on the practices here by using the NRCS conservation practice number in parenthesis below.

Below you can also find additional tools for managing LPC habitat on private land and practice standards for industry.

Working Land Management (NRCS Practice Standards)

Upland Wildlife Habitat Management (645): provide and manage upland habitats and connectivity within the landscape for wildlife. When developing a management plan integrate features that enable movement, provide shelter, cover, and food to sustain the LPC during critical life-cycle periods. This can be used in conjunction with a variety of other conservation practices.

Prescribed Grazing (528): manage the harvest of vegetation with grazing and/or browsing animals. When developing a conservation management plan integrate practices that improve or maintain desired vegetation, improve the quality and ratio of LPC nesting and brood-rearing habitat, improve or maintain water quality and soil erosion, and increase quality of food for the LPC.

Cover Crop (340): plant crops including grasses, legumes, and forbs for seasonal cover and other conservation purposes. This will reduce erosion, increase soil organic matter and moisture content, and overall soil health to support LPC population recovery. Consider including cover crops that will support LPC habitat and food requirements in conservation management plans.

Brush Management (314): management or removal of woody (non-herbaceous or succulent) plants including those that are invasive and noxious. Include removal of Mesquite, Cholla, and Red Cedar in conservation management plans to improve LPC habitat.

Forage Harvest Management (511): timely cut and remove forages from the field as hay, green-chop or ensilage. When creating a conservation management plan integrate LPC life-cycle requirements into when and where haying is implemented.

Forage and Biomass Planting (512):  establish adapted and/or compatible species, varieties, or cultivars of herbaceous species suitable for pasture, hay, or biomass production. Improve livestock and LPC nutrition and health by planting species that improve forage supply, soil and water quality, and reduce soil erosion.

Access Control (417): temporarily or permanently exclude animals, people, vehicles, and/or equipment from quality LPC habitat. This may be done by placing signs, gates, and barriers in areas and during times of LPC nesting and brood-rearing.

Restoration Measures (NRCS Practice Standards)

Restoration and Management of Rare and Declining Habitats (643): restore, conserve, and manage unique or diminishing native terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Return native LPC rangeland to its original, usable, or functioning condition so to improve biodiversity and provide habitat for LPC.

Prescribed Burning (338): control fire applied to a predetermined area. Apply controlled burns to eliminate undesirable vegetation, control plant diseases, reduce wildlife hazards, and improve LPC habitat by restoring a historical ecosystem function.

Critical Area Planting (342): establish permanent vegetation on sites that have, or are expected to have, high erosion rates, and on sites that have physical, chemical or biological conditions that prevent the establishment of vegetation with normal practices. This practice will stabilize stream, agricultural, and other riparian areas that may experience high rates of erosion and reduce the quality of LPC habitat.

Tree and Shrub Planting (612): establish natural woody plants by planting seedlings or cuttings, direct seeding, or natural regeneration. LPC generally avoid forested and areas with high structures that provide for roosting of predators, but some trees may provide necessary shade in summer heat.

Range Planting (550): establish adapted perennial or self-sustaining vegetation such as grasses, forbs, legumes, shrubs and trees. This will provide or improve forage for livestock and the LPC, reduce erosion and increase carbon sequestration.

Conservation Cover (327): establish and maintain permanent vegetative cover. Integrate LPC habitat requirements throughout its life-cycle into a conservation management plan by maintaining permanent cover for nesting and brood-rearing.

Woody Residue Treatment (384): treat or remove residual woody material that is created due to management activities or natural disturbances. Remove debris to foster LPC habitat, decrease fire hazards, and improve the soil organic matter. Not applicable to active cropland.

Herbaceous Weed Control (315): remove or control herbaceous weeds including invasive, noxious and prohibited plants. Eliminate invasive and non-native plant species to improve LPC habitat and food sources.

Obstruction Removal (500): remove and dispose of buildings, structures, other works of improvement, vegetation, debris or other materials.

Infrastructure Improvement (NRCS Practice Standards)

Fence (382): reduce collision mortality by marking fences or constructed barriers.

Firebreak (394): create permanent or temporary strips of bare or vegetated land planned to retard fire. This is a good practice to implement when creating a mosaic of habitat types for the LPC to ensure that there is the proper ratio of nesting to brood-rearing habitat.

Grade Stabilization Structure (410): create structures used to control the grade and head cutting in natural or artificial channels. Reduce erosion and improve quality LPC habitat.

Watering Facility (614): construct permanent or portable devices to provide an adequate amount and quality of drinking water for livestock and/or LPC. LPC do not necessarily require watering facilities, but if maintained make sure to install exit and escape ramps.

Spring Development (574): collect water from springs or seeps to provide water for a conservation need. In areas of drought supplement LPC water needs by collecting spring water.

Pumping Plant (533): install plants that deliver water at a designed pressure and flow rate appropriate for LPC and other livestock. Funding is included for the required pump(s), associated power unit(s), plumbing, appurtenances, and may include on-site fuel or energy source(s), and protective structures.

Water Well (642): when drilling and constructing water wells, take into consideration impact on LPC habitat and resources.

Well Decommissioning (351): the sealing and permanent closure of a water well no longer in use.

Livestock Pipeline (516): install a pipeline and appurtenances to convey water for livestock or wildlife, including the LPC.

Pond (378): install a pond, or water impoundment made by constructing an embankment or by excavating a pit or dugout. This will provide water for livestock, wildlife, recreation, fire control and renewable energy systems. It can also be used to maintain or improve water quality.

Heavy Use Protection (561): the stabilization of areas frequently and intensively used by people, animals, or vehicles by establishing vegetative cover, surfacing with suitable materials, and/or installing needed structures. Reduce the impact to LPC habitat and reproduction by stabilizing areas of high impact.

Other Conservation Practices

Other Conservation Practices that may be implemented to conserve or restore LPC habitat include:

Herbicide Treatment: it is suggested to reduce herbicide application of Tebuthiuron on shinnery oak. Herbicide use may be a tool for creating the mosaic of grass heights required during the LPC brood-rearing time, but when over utilized can eliminate the required nesting habitat. It is possible to use prescribed grazing alone or in combination with herbicide treatment to achieve this balance.

Crop Management Techniques: it is suggested to implement cultivation tillage, inter-seeding, fallow disking or aeration, and create buffer areas around active agricultural areas in order to reduce impacts on LPC habitat.

Conservation Easements: a conservation easement is a deeded restriction on the use of land. Landowners can sell or donate their development rights and set aside land for the conservation of LPC habitat with this tool.

Conservation Banking: a conservation bank is land that is conserved and permanently managed for endangered, threatened or candidate species and functions as an offset to adverse impacts to the species that occurs elsewhere. Landowners that place land in a conservation bank are compensated with habitat or species credits that can be sold to those who need to offset unavoidable impacts to LPC habitat.

Habitat Trading Credits: ecosystem credit markets are relatively new tools where landowners sell the ecosystem services conserved on their land (such as carbon, water quality, and habitat) as credits to industry and individuals wishing to offset or reduce their impact on natural systems. This market based approach to conserving LPC habitat could be in the form of habitat trading credits through state programs.

Practice Standards for Industry Development

Industry, including wind energy, transmission lines, and oil/gas production, can engage in LPC habitat conservation through mitigation practices. Mitigation is a two-step process. First, it requires that industry take certain measures to reduce the impact it will have on the LPC and LPC habitat. For example:

  • Avoid development in focal areas and connectivity zones
  • Focus development on lands already altered or cultivated, or areas already degraded or fragmented. If new infrastructure is needed, place in existing roads or rights of way
  • For oil and gas, use directional drilling and clustering
  • Minimize use of herbicide treatment
  • Bury distribution lines within 1.25 miles of active leks
  • Use monopole construction for new electrical transmission lines
  • Install fence markings within ¼ of a mile of an active lek
  • Minimize traffic volume, construction and maintenance activities during lekking, nesting and brooding season

Second, industry may mitigate unavoidable development impacts by conducting on and offsite conservation or restoration.