Mar. 25, 2013 —
scientists have been at the forefront of research on the lesser prairie chicken
(LPC), a prairie grouse native to the West Texas
landscape, for more than three decades.
Now their research and that of other universities could be square in the middle of an ongoing debate whether to protect the bird as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to hold another public comment period this spring before voting on the issue Sept. 30.
Along with their
based studies on breeding, predation, survival and microclimate, Texas Tech
researchers also collected more than a decade's worth of data from . Additional
research out of Oklahoma and Kansas has indicated lesser prairie chickens have
an aversion to tall vertical structures, such as wind turbines and power lines,
findings that could affect the oil and gas industry as much as farmers and land
owners. New Mexico
Pieces of the puzzle
The researchers' part of this complicated puzzle is to provide information on the status of the species, not comment on policy, said Clint Boal, professor in the Department of Natural Resources Management and assistant leader of the USGS Texas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. He has been involved in LPC research since 2007; prior to that, Dave Haukos, a former Texas Tech professor now at
, had been
conducting studies at Texas Tech since the 1980s. Kansas
"We don't know exactly where they (the LPC) were 150 years ago," Boal said. "Our estimates are that the entire area they occupied has decreased during the past 100 years -- both the area occupied and the number of lesser prairie chickens has decreased about 90 percent in the past 100 years."
The bird is now found only in restricted areas of five states in the southern Great Plains:
New Mexico and . Texas