Category Archives: News

Research Sheds Light on Nocturnal Habits of Lesser Prairie-Chickens

What do lesser prairie-chickens do at night? Until recently, scientists had very little data on the bird’s after-hours behavior and habitat preferences. Researchers from Oklahoma State University are filling in some of the blanks, with results that can help inform conservation practices. Graduate student Ashley Tanner, a Ph.D. candidate at OSU, summarized the research teams findings.

Female lesser prairie-chicken with satellite transmitter. Photo Dwayne Elmore, OSU

“Despite the fact that lesser prairie-chickens spend nearly half their time budget every day, throughout the year, at nocturnal roosting sites, we know relatively little about this behavior and associated habitat,” Tanner wrote in her research summary.

At night, Tanner noted,  lesser prairie-chickens are under significantly different pressures than during the day. For example, some potential predators are more active at night, such as coyotes, bobcats, great-horned owls, and American badgers. These additional pressures may alter habitat selection from what is typically used during the day.

Tanner’s research team analyzed 31,324 nocturnal roost locations from 103  individual lesser prairie-chickens (71 males and 32 females) in Beaver County, Oklahoma. They found that mortality was no more likely at night than during the day.

Female lesser prairie-chicken with satellite transmitter (photo Dwayne Elmore, OSU)Moreover, the team found that once a lesser prairie-chicken selected a roosting site, movement from that site was rare. They noted that lesser prairie-chickens moved at least 50m only about 6% of the nights, and moved more than 50m less than 3% of nights. Given the low rates of nocturnal movement, any disturbance that causes a chicken to move nocturnally would be especially disruptive to these birds.

Additionally, the team found that course-scale habitat use during the night was not significantly different than habitat used during the day. Lesser prairie-chickens use areas with higher amounts of plant biomass for roosting.

Tanner notes that the research results fill a substantial void in knowledge about lesser prairie-chicken ecology, helping managers make appropriate conservation management decisions that account for the bird’s needs throughout the day.

Texas Field Trip Showcases Lesser Prairie-Chicken Conservation

Thanks to LPCI partner organization, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA), for this story.

A Texas Panhandle meeting and field trip organized this spring for regional field staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) highlighted efforts on public and private land to conserve the lesser prairie-chicken.

FWS officials met with WAFWA staff and representatives of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative Council in Lubbock on April 17. The following day, the group toured the Yoakum Dunes Wildlife Management Area with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff to observe on-the-ground conservation efforts on state land, and also toured a nearby private ranch that is under a term conservation agreement with WAFWA.

The group was treated to the inspiring sight of booming lesser prairie-chickens on two leks, saw plenty of other wildlife and they were all encouraged by what they saw.

“One word sums up the day: awesome!” said Benjamin Tuggle, regional director for the USFWS Southwest Region.  “I am sure that through our continued collaboration and communications we will strengthen our partnership and foster additional opportunities for conservation in the Great Plains.”

WAFWA Story Map

The landscape-scale conservation work currently underway for lesser prairie-chickens in five western states is massive in scale and complex in scope. To help people understand what it’s all about, WAFWA has recently launched new “story maps” to explain different elements of the plan and how it all comes together. The interactive site is easy to navigate and provides detail in easy to understand terms.

View WAFWA’s lesser prairie-chicken story map.

Wildlife Journal Spotlights Lesser Prairie-Chicken Conservation

Lesser prairie-chickens take top billing in the latest issue of The Wildlife Professional, trade journal of The Wildlife Society, an international scientific and educational association dedicated to excellence in wildlife stewardship. The cover story explores the current state of lesser prairie-chickens over their five-state range.

In David Frey’s article, Boom or Bust?, researchers from across the southern Great Plains weighed in on the bird’s recovery. Christian Hagen, science advisor for the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative (LPCI), expressed cautious optimism about populations trends. “On the whole, things are actually looking quite good,” Hagen said. “It’s certainly not the growth rate we’d like to see, but all the trends we see are headed in the right direction.”

The researchers agree that it all comes down to habitat. “The biggest thing for these birds is intact pieces of prairie, and keeping ranchers ranching to retain prairie as prairie,” Hagen said.

LPCI partner organizations across the southern Great Plains have been working toward that goal. New Mexico wildlife biologist Tish McDaniel of the Center of Excellence described her organization’s strategy. “We put a lot of effort into habitat restoration, working with ranchers, mitigating with oil and gas. All the work that we do to try to make things as good as they can be, so when the bird numbers do increase, we will still have habitat for them.”

Lesser prairie-chickens inhabit four distinct ecoregions within the southern Great Plains—each with its own recovery challenges. Though their entire range is drought-prone, the western portion of the range receives the least annual rainfall.

Range conservationist and wildlife biologist Tish McDaniel (right) serves as project manager for the Center of Excellence, and LPCI partner that works with ranchers and the energy industry to protect lesser prairie-chicken habitat.

Colorado’s prairie-chicken population is the smallest of the five states, with less than 100 birds in the southwest corner of the state.  “In the past decade we’ve seen a pretty dramatic decline,” said Cody Strong, an LPCI wildlife biologist in Colorado. “The chicken has not done as well here [as in other parts of the range], but we’re getting its habitat in a better place now.”

Prairie chicken numbers are strongest in Kansas. Curiously, their numbers have increased significantly in northwest Kansas as the birds have actually spread into areas previously unoccupied by lesser prairie-chickens. Kansas State University researcher Dave Haukos noted that this increase appears connected with the availability of Conservation Reserve Program grasslands in this region.

Haukos struck an optimistic note about the lesser prairie-chicken’s future. “They’re a boom-and-bust species,” he said. “They’re very resilient. So long as they do have available habitat in sufficient quantity and quality, they can survive.”

Indeed, prairie-chicken numbers have rebounded across the chicken’s five-state range since the intensive drought of 2012-13, with last year’s population estimate just over 25,000 birds.

LPCI Science Advisor Christian Hagen (right) talks with Kansas rancher Ed Koger during a prescribed burn at the Hashknife Ranch.

Researchers expressed concern that climate change will push the limits of that resilience. “This is the southern extreme of the population,” McDaniel said, “And with the temperature increasing, this will be the part of the population that will be affected the most.”

For a habitat-conservation initiative like the Natural Resources Conservation Service-led LPCI, the take-away from Frey’s article is that we’re on the right track. Healthy, resilient habitat is the key to the lesser prairie-chicken’s survival. With 95% of the bird’s habitat in private ownership, helping ranchers adopt habitat conservation practices that work well for both bird and herd is an essential strategy for lesser prairie-chicken recovery.

WAFWA Reports on 2016 Conservation Efforts, Including Permanent Land Protection

On March 31, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service its third annual report detailing conservation efforts in 2016 on behalf of the lesser prairie-chicken. Among other highlights, WAFWA reported on the purchase of an ecologically significant piece of property in Kansas, which permanently protects nearly 30,000 acres of high-quality lesser prairie-chicken habitat.

WAFWA oversees the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan–a collaborative effort of the state wildlife agencies of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado. It was developed to provide a blueprint for lesser prairie-chicken conservation through voluntary cooperation of landowners, land management agencies, and industry participants.

Brad Odle, right, is one of several WAFWA regional biologists who works with landowners to voluntarily manage rangelands for lesser prairie-chickens.

“As we close out our third year of implementation, we’re really hitting our stride,” said Alexa Sandoval, Director of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and Chairman of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative Council. “We are encouraged that despite an oil and gas industry downturn, support for this collaborative conservation approach remains strong. We commend all of our partners for their participation in the range-wide plan.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endorsed the plan in 2013, and as part of the conservation effort, the states agreed to report annually on the overall progress of the plan. Findings for 2016 include:

Land conservation efforts on private land increasing
By the end of 2016, WAFWA was conserving 16 sites totaling 133,703 acres either through fee title ownership or long-term contractual agreements. Three of those sites, totaling 33,053 acres, are permanently conserved through perpetual conservation easements or fee title ownership.

Most significantly, a 29,718-acre land acquisition by WAFWA was finalized in June 2016, permanently protecting high-quality habitat in the sand sagebrush ecoregion. Five lesser prairie-chicken lek sites have been documented on the property and within 3 miles of its perimeter within the last 5 years. WAFWA will continue to manage the property as a working cattle ranch and the grazing rights are currently leased to a private producer.

The acquired property meets all the criteria to be considered a “stronghold”, providing long-term protection to at least 25,000 acres of high-quality habitat for lesser prairie-chickens. Currently only one stronghold site exists throughout the lesser prairie-chicken’s five-state range in the southern Great Plains. A second, small acquisition  permanently protects 1,554 acres of shinnery oak habitat.

In addition, 1,781 acres of privately owned native rangeland is now permanently protected in the mixed grass ecoregion. WAFWA purchased a perpetual easement on the property that protects the conservation values of the site. The easement is held by Pheasants Forever.

WAFWA biologist Brad Odle conducts vegetation monitoring in lesser prairie-chicken habitat.

The other 13 sites were 10-year contracts with private landowners, covering 100,650 acres across the range, three of which were executed during 2016.

Lesser prairie-chicken population stable
The annual lesser prairie-chicken aerial survey used to monitor populations was conducted from March through May 2016. The latest survey showed population trends have been stable after five years of data collection. An estimated breeding population of 25,261 birds was documented in 2016, which scientists say is not statistically different from the estimate of 29,162 birds in 2015 given the variability associated with the survey methodology. Aerial surveys for 2017 are underway and will run through mid-May. Results are anticipated in early July.

Cooperative efforts enhancing conservation
A renewed cooperative effort between Natural Resources Conservation Service (through the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative), Pheasants Forever, and WAFWA will enhance program promotion, monitoring activities, and conservation planning and delivery. There was also continued effort to work with state wildlife agencies to identify and pursue research and management needs. Those activities included lesser prairie-chicken translocation efforts that moved birds from the shortgrass to sand sagebrush ecoregion

Technology enhances conservation decision-making
During 2016, significant progress was made in database development and accessibility. Highlights include integrating impact and conservation sites into a single database to ensure all habitat impacts are offset by an appropriate conservation site. In addition, a custom website was developed that give participating companies a way to submit and approve new projects as well as view past submissions. WAFWA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can also use the web interface to obtain site-specific summary statistics, habitat mitigation credit balances, and raw data.

Industry projects generate mitigation credit, offset by conservation
In 2016, 114 industry-related projects were processed and mitigated.  WAFWA has focused on committing enrollment and mitigation fees for conservation contracts to benefit the bird and to ensure companies have available mitigation credit to develop as energy prices rebound. In July 2016, WAFWA developed a process to address non-payment of enrollment fees that provides several options to help companies stay enrolled in the program.

Full details are in the annual report available Here

Contact: Roger Wolfe, 785-256-3737
roger.wolfe@wafwa.org

WAFWA to begin aerial surveys of lesser prairie-chicken habitat

Aerial surveys of lesser prairie-chickens will begin March 17 and run through mid-May in five states containing habitat the bird needs to thrive. The surveys are conducted annually by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) to assess population trends and how the bird is responding to management strategies identified in the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan. 

WAFWA’s annual aerial survey counts lesser prairie-chickens on leks (mating display sites) across the 5-state range.

The range-wide plan is a collaborative effort of WAFWA and the state wildlife agencies of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. It was developed to ensure conservation of the lesser prairie-chicken by providing a mechanism for voluntary participation of landowners and industry. Funding for WAFWA’s conservation efforts comes largely from voluntary mitigation payments by industry partners that are enrolled in the plan. The range-wide plan allows agriculture producers and industry to continue operations while reducing impacts to the bird and its grassland habitat.

Bill Van Pelt, WAFWA’s grassland coordinator, explains the intent of the aerial survey. “Working with the wildlife agencies of each of these five states, we’ve established a consistent methodology to conduct these aerial surveys. This allows us to get the most accurate information possible so we can see how various management strategies for the bird are working on the ground.”

The surveys will be conducted by helicopter in locations chosen randomly within lesser prairie-chicken range. In previous years, some of the fly paths prompted calls, which is why WAFWA is getting the word out about the start of aerial survey work.

Results from this year’s surveys will be available on July 1. In the five years since WAFWA initiated the surveys in 2012, estimated lesser prairie-chicken numbers have fluctuated between 20,300 and 38,700. Last year’s range-wide population was estimated at 25,700.

The population is still low compared to historical numbers, and the lesser prairie-chicken and its habitat still face many threats. WAFWA, a partner in the Natural Resources Conservation Service-led Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI), is committed to continued successful implementation of the range-wide plan and the long-term recovery of this iconic grassland bird.

For more information about the lesser prairie-chicken and the conservation work being done to support it, see the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Plan.

Since 1922, WAFWA has advanced conservation in western North America. Representing 23 western states and Canadian provinces, WAFWA’s reach encompasses more than forty percent of North America, including two-thirds of the United States.

WAFWA works with LPCI to enhance the field staff team that works one-on-one with landowners to recommend and provide assistance in carrying out conservation practices to benefit both lesser prairie-chickens and agricultural producers.

 

10 Things You Can Do for Lesser Prairie-Chickens

What can you do to help lesser prairie-chickens? Whether or not you own prairie habitat, there’s  a whole lot you can do to act on behalf of prairie wildlife.

1. Take Part in the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative

Oklahoma rancher Martin Moore reviews his grazing plan with NRCS District Conservationist Paul Clark.

If you’re a landowner in the lesser prairie-chicken’s habitat range, you may be eligible to receive technical and financial assistance from the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI) to take part in conservation planning and range management that benefit lesser prairie-chickens AND the bottom line of your agricultural operation.

Find out how to enroll.

2. Support Landowners Practicing Careful Stewardship 

Healthy grasslands don’t just happen–they’re the result of careful stewardship. Ninety-five percent of the grasslands lesser prairie-chickens inhabit is privately owned. When you pay access fees to hunt, fish, or bird-watch on healthy grasslands, you’re supporting excellent stewardship and offering incentive for landowners to maintain quality habitat on their land.

3. Support LPCI’s Partners

Dogs await the start of the Bird Dog Parade at the annual Pheasant Fest, hosted by Pheasants Forever, an LPCI partner organization. (Photo: Pioneer Press, Dave Orrick)

Visit our Partners page and check out the many partner organizations who work with LPCI to achieve lesser prairie-chicken conservation through sustainable agriculture.

You’ll find links to their websites, where you can find out more about them and how to support their efforts.

4. Purchase a Hunting License

The purchase of licenses by hunters, trappers and anglers, as well as the taxes derived from the sale of sporting equipment and fuels for boating, supports fish and wildlife habitat conservation and research.

5. Buy Grass-fed Beef

You can act on behalf of prairie grasslands and the wildlife that depend on them through your supermarket choices.  When you buy grass-fed beef, you support keeping our grasslands as grasslands.

6. Discover the Prairie

There are so many ways to learn more about the prairie.  Visit our Prairie Community pages to find out more about lesser prairie-chickens and the complex community of plants and animals they live with. Our News and Resources page offers many links to readings, videos, and podcasts on LPCI, sustainable range management, prairie ecology, and much more. Sign up for LPCI’s e-newsletter to stay posted on what we’re up to.

Viewing blinds on the Selman Ranch in Oklahoma, one of the field sites for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival in Woodward, OK.

Best of all, spend time in native grasslands across the Great Plains, at sites like the Konza Prairie Biological Station, where managers aim to sustain the complex prairie ecosystem through management that mimics historic disturbance patterns. Attend prairie festivals, like Woodward Oklahoma’s Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival. If you haven’t yet sat in a blind in the early morning hours, listening to prairie-chickens boom and foot-stomp and cluck and spar in the first light of a spring day, it’s high time!

 

7. Volunteer Time and Sweat 

Even if you don’t own prairie grasslands, you can help out with their stewardship. Volunteer to help a ranching neighbor carry out conservation practices. Contact your local prescribed burn association and volunteer to help out with prescribed burns. Some of our partner organizations hold volunteer days for clearing invasive species, installing wildlife water tanks, and more, so be sure to check out their websites for more information. Let your state representatives know that you support grassland conservation.

8. Celebrate all things prairie

Lesser prairie-chicken (photo Jeremy Roberts, Conservation Media)

If you are fortunate enough to live on the Great Plains, hold an event in your community to celebrate the prairie: the remarkable community of life there, the bounty it brings to our lives, and the resilience and fragility of the prairie ecosystem, the ranching heritage it supports. Involve your local school in the celebration -– children are the next generation of land stewards.

9. Spread the Word

Know someone with land in the lesser prairie-chicken’s range? Tell them about LPCI’s voluntary conservation programs and the technical and financial assistance LPCI provides.

Like LPCI on Facebook. By going to the LPCI Facebook page and clicking LIKE at the top, you’ll be able to follow LPCI news and learn more about the world of the lesser prairie-chicken. If you see a story that moves you, share it with your friends.

10. Share Your Story

Have you had a memorable encounter with lesser prairie-chickens or the prairie in general? Helped conserve prairie habitat for lesser prairie-chickens and other wildlife? Seen first-hand how conservation practices benefit both people and wildlife? We’d love to hear your story!

Lessons from the Heath Hen

Though the effort to save the heath hen was unsuccessful, it laid the groundwork for the way we undertake conservation of other species.

Eighty-five years ago today, the last living heath hen was seen for the last time. Booming Ben, as the lone grouse came to be known, had been the last of his kind since 1929. He faithfully returned each spring to display alone at his traditional lekking ground, making his last appearance on March 11, 1932.

Heath hens, John James Audubon

A sub-species of the greater prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido), the heath hen (Tympanuchus cupido cupido) was a close cousin of the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus). The likeness between the two is apparent when comparing historic footage of displaying male heath hens,  with contemporary footage of male lesser-prairie chickens.

Heath hens once ranged across scrubby coastal heath barrens from Maine to Virginia. Intensive hunting, coastal settlement, and fire suppression caused the population to plummet. By 1870, heath hens had vanished from the mainland US and only remained on Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts.

As heath hen populations further dwindled, Martha’s Vineyard officials banned hunting of heath hens in 1906. Two years later, they created a 600-acre preserve for the birds. Far too little, far too late. The tiny remaining population was highly vulnerable to disruption. Add to that a lack of understanding of prairie grouse ecology—most notably of fire’s role in maintaining viable habitat—and the heath hen’s demise was sealed.

From the failed attempt to save heath hens from extinction, we learned the importance of early intervention—not waiting until a species hangs on the brink of extinction to begin efforts to boost its numbers. We also learned the importance of scientific research in understanding the ecological forces driving population dynamics. And we learned that landscape-level habitat problems need landscape-level solutions.

Fast-forward to 2010, when the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) launched the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative—a landscape-level effort to maintain healthy habitat across the lesser prairie-chicken’s current five-state range as a means to increase the population of this at-risk species.

Scientific research helps identify core lesser prairie-chicken habitat and connective habitat corridors so that conservation efforts can focus where they’ll have the greatest impact. Research continues to help hone conservation efforts, increasing our understanding of population dynamics and fine-tuning our strategies for improving habitat health (see LPCI’s Science to Solutions series).

Though the effort to save the heath hen was unsuccessful, it laid the groundwork for the way we undertake conservation of other species. Through LPCI and other similar landscape conservation initiatives, private landowners can voluntarily partake in a collaborative effort to conserve not only an iconic species but an iconic way of life. LPCI builds upon the fact that when grasslands are healthy and productive, both wildlife and ranchers are better off. That’s win-win conservation at its best.

Leading LPCI’s Effort to Conserve Prairie Wildlife and Ranching

For Manuel De Leon, acting coordinator of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI), working one-on-one with landowners is both the highlight of his job and the key to making a real difference for lesser prairie-chickens. A Lubbock-area native, Manuel has worked for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in the Texas Panhandle since 2002. As LPCI’s acting coordinator, he’s overseeing the effort to conserve habitat for lesser prairie-chickens across their five-state range.

Manuel came to this career by a circuitous route. Following in his older brother’s footsteps, he began college as a business major. During his sophomore year, he discovered a listing in the course catalog that changed his life. “I saw this thing called ‘wildlife management’—I never knew that was a major!”  Manuel changed his major and was hooked.

After completing his bachelor’s degree in wildlife management, he pursued a master’s degree in wildlife science, spending two field seasons studying shorebird habitat use and behavior in North Dakota prairie potholes. A decade of work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service followed, taking him to such beautiful sites as Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

By the early 2000s, Manuel was ready to return home to northern Texas. He began his career with NRCS as a soil conservationist in Muleshoe in 2002, in the heart of Texas lesser prairie-chicken country. Ever since then, he has provided wildlife-based technical assistance to landowners interested in improving wildlife habitat on their ranchlands.

LPCI Acting Coordinator Manuel De Leon and NRCS Soil Conservationist Brittany Anderson use GPS technology during conservation planning on a ranch near Pampa, Texas.

A central part of his job, Manuel says, is to discuss the range of management options with landowners. “Even if we have an inkling that the landowner has their mind made up to plant row crops, it’s important that we provide alternatives,” Manuel says.

“If the land has potential as [lesser prairie] chicken habitat, we might suggest letting the grass grow for a year or two, running a prescribed fire, and creating a prescribed grazing plan. Then we can reach into the financial toolbox for programs that can help them offset the cost of practices that are going to be beneficial to the land and to everybody. We all live downstream, as the saying goes.”

As acting coordinator for LPCI, Manuel is working with LPCI partners to fine-tune LPCI’s conservation delivery. In that process, he sees landowners as the most important partner of all. With 95% of lesser prairie-chicken habitat on private land, landowners hold the key to conservation success. “They need to put food on the table and make a living. We need to work with them with flexibility in order to make conservation happen.”

The Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative is a partnership-based, science-driven effort that uses voluntary incentives to conserve America’s western rangelands, wildlife, and rural way of life. This initiative is part of Working Lands For Wildlife, which is led by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Chickens and Woody Encroachment: Research Presentations Available for Viewing

On January 29, the Society for Range Management hosted an full-day symposium on the effects  of woody encroachment on western grouse–namely lesser prairie-chickens and greater sage grouse. Twenty scientists presented their findings and discussed management implications for grassland and sagebrush habitats.

If you missed the live-streaming of those presentations, don’t worry—they’re now available for on-line viewing. While all of the 20-minute presentations are captivating, a small subset specifically relate to lesser prairie-chickens and the southern Great Plains, and we’ve highlighted these below. You can view the full suite of presentations on the Sage Grouse Initiative YouTube playlist for the Woodland Expansion Symposium.

1. Impact of Mesquite Distribution on Seasonal Space Use of Lesser Prairie-Chickens. Lead researcher Matt Bogie presents his findings from his study of lesser prairie-chickens in eastern New Mexico.

Read our Science to Solutions summary of Bogie’s research, Mesquite Removal Restores Habitat for Lesser Prairie-Chickens.

 

 

2. Lesser Prairie-Chicken Avoidance of Trees in a Grassland Landscape. Lead researcher Joseph Lautenbach presents findings from his study of lesser prairie-chickens in redcedar-encroached grasslands in south-central Kansas.

Read our Science to Solutions summary of this research, Redcedar Removal Restores LEPC Habitat.

 

 

3. Targeted Woodland Removal to Recover At-Risk Grouse and Their Sagebrush-Steppe and Prairie Ecosystems. Rick Miller presents a new mapping tool that offers high-resolution mapping of woody encroachment in lesser prairie-chicken and greater sage-grouse habitat regions and discusses implications for management.

Read our Science to Solutions summary of this research, New Mapping Tool Helps Target Woody Encroachment.

 

New Role Coordinates LPCI’s Field Capacity, Deepens Partnerships

Since 2012, Jordan Menge has worked with landowners in the Texas Panhandle to help restore habitat for lesser prairie-chickens, as part of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative’s Strategic Watershed Action Team (SWAT). Now he has taken on a new role, as the SWAT Capacity Coordinator, overseeing SWAT field staff across the five-state LPCI action area.

Jordan Menge, LPCI’s SWAT Capacity Coordinator

Through LPCI, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) teams up with partner agencies and organizations to expand the field delivery, science, and communications capacity for lesser prairie-chicken conservation. Pooling resources, partner organizations fund SWAT range conservationists and wildlife biologists based in field offices in critical habitat areas in the Southern Plains states.

SWAT field staffers work with landowners who chose to participate in voluntary range conservation programs funded through the federal Farm Bill and through the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Plan.

Under contract with LPCI partner organization Pheasants Forever, Menge will help build LPCI’s SWAT program, aiming to have five SWAT field staffers in place by the end of 2017—one in each of the five states that are home to lesser prairie-chickens.

“Over time—hopefully in the next year or two—we can expand the SWAT program to 10 people,” Menge said.

Menge will work with NRCS and WAFWA biologists to train field staff. “New science is constantly informing conservation practices.” Menge said.  “Training SWAT staff to incorporate the latest research findings related to lesser prairie-chicken ecology helps ensure that conservation dollars deliver the greatest return on investment.”

His role will help coordinate conservation efforts among partner organizations. “We’ll be pretty involved with WAFWA, carrying out vegetation monitoring and conservation planning.”

“I hope we can bring better communications through our partners to implement positive conservation on the ground for producers and for chickens,” Menge said.

Great to have you in your new role, Jordan!