Conserving Prairie Chickens and their Habitat

Lesser Prairie-chicken. Photo by Bob Gress.

The presence or absence of Prairie-chickens is an indicator of the quality of prairie and/or native rangeland management. It takes a diversity of native grassland plants to provide for the year round needs of either Greater Prairie-chickens or Lesser Prairie-chickens. Grazing practices that maintain sufficient habitat heterogeneity/diversity are best for Prairie-chickens and generally provide more niches for other grassland species. Intensive and homogeneous grazing (and annual burning of entire pastures) results in uniform structure or composition throughout and less suitable habitat for nesting, brood-rearing and other needs of Prairie-chickens and many grassland species. Audubon of Kansas is among several organizations that advocate for Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) funding for patch burn grazing practices. AOK supports special Conservation Reserve Program and EQIP initiatives for Lesser Prairie-chickens. AOK was the only organization that publicly challenged the claim made by the Kansas governor that the answer to Lesser Prairie-chicken conservation was to raise them in captivity (thus, eliminating the need to protect habitat from various developments), and to strongly denounce the legislation promoted by former Secretary of State Kris Kobach that would have made it a crime for agency personnel in Kansas to assist the US Fish and Wildlife Service to conserve the species if it was designated as a federally threatened species!

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