Lesser Prairie Chicken

prairie-chickenThis is a photo of a specimen of the Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC), on display in the Statehouse. A beautiful bird and a species native to western Kansas, it is a part of our natural heritage. Its range also extends over parts of Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. Its population numbers have reportedly been declining in recent years, and this has caught the attention of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They are currently in the process of determining whether it might be appropriate for the LPC to be listed as an endangered species. That would be truly unfortunate, and would work significant hardship on the economy of western Kansas, including large portions of the 118th District.

Kansas Wildlife and Parks personnel, in concert with representatives from the other affected states, have developed a plan to hopefully enhance LPC habitat and populations. Their intention is to head off an endangered species listing by the federal government. Unfortunately, the plan that they are proposing also imposes very significant cost for new economic activities in the affected areas. The effect would essentially be a tax on economic growth in Western Kansas! It may be, however, that this is the lesser of two evils, and my hope is that Kansas Wildlife and Parks personnel continue working to minimize the negative impacts.

There are multiple reasons for the decline in LPC numbers. One of the short-term causes has been drought, which has had a huge effect on the populations of all upland game bird species. But the other problem, and the one that the plan is intended to address, is habitat destruction. It seems that the LPC is rather particular about the type of habitat that it calls home. Perhaps what we need is a genetically-modified Lesser Prairie Chicken that isn’t quite so picky…

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