Oklahoma Lesser Prairie Chicken Conservation Action Plan draft available for public review and presentation

The public is invited to provide comments on a draft conservation plan for the Lesser Prairie Chicken in Oklahoma. The first draft of the Oklahoma Lesser Prairie Chicken Conservation Action Plan (OLEPCCP) is now available for public review and is posted on the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's website at (www.wildlifedepartment.com/wildlifemgmt/lepc/action_plan.htm). Comments on the draft plan will be accepted until May 4, and the public is encouraged to attend an evening public meeting April 25 in Beaver or April 26 in Woodward.

The draft OLEPCCP identifies management strategies to increase the lesser prairie chicken (LEPC) population in Oklahoma through habitat improvements. The plan emphasizes tools and incentives to encourage landowners and others to partner with agencies in conservation efforts while also achieving their land use needs. The Oklahoma House of Representatives adopted a concurrent resolution in April 2011 directing ODWC to coordinate development of the LEPC conservation plan to "protect, enhance, and restore [LEPC] habitat while also addressing other factors leading to their decline." The plan is intended to benefit the people, economy, and wildlife resources of Oklahoma by providing a framework for effective LEPC management and habitat improvement that will facilitate population increases.

The LEPC is a North American grouse species that historically occupied sand sagebrush, shinnery oak, and mixed grassvegetation types of the southern Great Plains. LEPC and the habitat upon which they depend have diminished across their historical range by about 90%. In 1995 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determined that the LEPC was warranted for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. Unless populations sufficiently increase, the species may be listed in the future, resulting in potential federal regulation of some activities and developments within its range.

Public meetings to present the draft OLEPCCP and to hear public comments will be held Wednesday, April 25, 6:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. at the Beaver County Fairgrounds Pavilion Building, Douglas Ave. in Beaver, and Thursday, April 26, 6:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. at the City of Woodward Pioneer Room, 1219 8th St. in Woodward. Written public comments should be sent to janc@gci.netor 114 S. Franklin St., Ste. 203, Juneau, AK 99801 by Friday, May 4.

The OLEPCCP is being prepared by a consulting team led by the Ecosystem Management Research Institute (www.emri.org), assisted by Jan Caulfield Consulting. For more information, contact Dr. Jonathan Haufler, Ecosystem Management Research Institute (406) 677-0247.

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