The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced this week a final rule that establishes two distinct population segments (DPS) of the lesser prairie chicken (LPC) and assigns a listing status for each under the Endangered Species Act. The Northern DPS, covering southeastern Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and the northeast Texas panhandle, will be listed as threatened and subject to a 4(d) rule. The southern DPS, which covers New Mexico and the southwest Texas panhandle, will be listed as endangered.
This decision is problematic for producers in both segments. In the northern DPS, the 4(d) rule only provides exemptions for take associated with grazing practices that follow a management plan developed by an agency-approved third party. At this time, FWS has not identified any approved entities who would be able to certify grazing plans, and it appears ranchers will not be allowed to sign off on their own plans and still qualify for protection under the 4(d) rule.
In the southern DPS, LPC will have endangered status. Therefore, incidental take will incur the same penalties and liability for producers as any other endangered species.
KLA and NCBA strongly oppose the rule and will engage in all legislative and regulatory efforts to prevent further federal overreach on this issue. The final rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register November 25. If published when expected, it will take effect January 24, 2023.