The federal government is now accepting applications through the end of the month from agricultural producers in lesser prairie-chicken range who are willing to implement conservation practices.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife practices include removing brush, implementing prescribed grazing and the establishment and management of native grass stands.
Only producers who are not enrolled in federal farm bill programs are eligible to apply for five- and 10-year contract options.
At the end of the sign-up period, the wildlife service will score and rank applications based on their value to prairie chickens and pick the highest ranking offers for funding.
Landowners with accepted offers will receive a sign-up incentive and payments for implementing conservation practices that will maximize the value of their property for prairie chickens.
Payments of up to 125 percent of the estimated cost of implementing the plan will be offered to landowners in high-priority locations who are providing optimal habitat to the lesser prairie chicken.
If the species is listed, any take that occurred while implementing the practices would be exempt from the take prohibitions of the Endangered Species Act. Producers who are interested in the program should contact their local state wildlife agency office for more details and to complete an application.
After the sign-up period is complete, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies will develop similar conservation plans for producers who do not want to or do not qualify for payments, but who want to be exempted from Endangered Species Act take prohibitions.
The prescribed management practices in these plans will be similar to the plans associated with funding. But livestock stocking rates will not be as conservative.
If the species is listed, any take that happened while implementing the practices would be exempt from the take prohibition of the act. Producers interested should also contact local wildlife agency offices to request that one be developed.
To see the full the range-wide plan, go to wafwa.org. To access an interactive map showing prairie-chicken habitat focal areas, see the Southern Great Plains Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool at http://kars.ku.edu/maps/sgpchat/.