OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it is delaying listing the lesser prairie-chicken as an endangered species.

USFWS officials say the lesser prairie-chicken serves as an important measure of the overall health of America’s grasslands as they need large, unfragmented parcels of intact native prairies to maintain self-sustaining populations.

“The lesser prairie-chicken’s decline is a sign our native grasslands and prairies are in peril. These habitats support a diversity of wildlife and are valued for water quality, climate resilience, grazing, hunting and recreation,” said USFWS Southwest Regional Director Amy Lueders. “The Service continues to work with stakeholders to develop voluntary conservation agreements that will protect the lesser prairie-chicken and the native grasslands on which it depends while assuring that oil and gas and renewable energy development, ranching, agriculture and other activities continue.” 

Lesser prairie-chicken habitat has diminished across its historical range by about 90 percent. Aerial survey results from 2012 through 2022 estimate a five-year average lesser prairie-chicken population of 32,210 across the five-state region.

The wildlife service agreed to list the lesser prairie-chicken as an endangered species.

However, at the urging of members of Congress, it agreed to delay the effective date until March 27.

“While a delay gives industry stakeholders valuable time to prepare for more bureaucratic red tape, our preference continues to be that this listing of the lesser prairie-chicken be dropped,” read a joint statement from certain members of Congress. ”Each party that is targeted by this listing must take advantage of this opportunity to continue to engage in their longstanding voluntary conservation efforts, a fact that went completely ignored by the federal government when it came to this decision. We commend Secretary Haaland for the additional time, but we will continue to do what we can at the federal level to stop the rule from going into effect.”