Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
[Greenwire article by Phil Taylor, sub. req'd] …The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed revisions to its 4(d) rule in order to incorporate a new five-state rangewide conservation plan for the ground-dwelling bird, which roams the southern Great Plains.
The revised rule says “take” of lesser prairie chickens incidental to activities conducted by an individual enrolled in the rangewide conservation plan will not be prohibited.
The 4(d) rule will apply only if the threatened listing [under the Endangered Species Act] is finalized, a decision to be made next March.
In a notice to be published in tomorrow’s Federal Register, Fish and Wildlife calls the plan “a comprehensive conservation program that reflects a sound conservation design and strategy that, when implemented, will provide a net conservation benefit to the lesser prairie-chicken.”…
[GreenBiz] …Last year, he [Wayne Walker] created Common Ground Capital (CGC), a conservation banking company that aims to create several prairie chicken species banks across five U.S. Great Plain states. So far, CGC has secured 86,000 acres of land spread across three states. Each bank will provide at least 10,000 acres of uninterrupted prairieland — a drastic improvement over the fragmented state of affairs today.
To achieve that size, however, he had to develop a new landscape approach to conservation banking…
This year’s deep decline has increased the probability of the chicken being listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The bird has been a candidate for listing since 1998. An ESA listing would mean federal protection for the species and would enforce regulations to conserve the chicken’s habitat even if it fell on private property.
Rather than wait for the species to be listed, Walker has decided to start his proactive conservation bank portfolio approach, creating several banks for the bird. It’s a risk, because if the bird doesn’t get listed, demand for “chicken credits” would be marginal at best.
If it is listed, however, companies will need special permission to affect the habitat, and even if they get that permission, they will have to mitigate their damage by supporting the offset of habitat impacts of equal or greater value than what they’ve damaged. By establishing banks based on ecological principles, Walker will be able to create several contiguous habitat areas where now only scattered fragments exist.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which administers the ESA, will make a listing decision on the prairie chicken in March. No matter what the decision is, Walker said conservation banks are necessary…