prairie chicken

A lesser prairie chicken photographed in New Mexico.
Larry Lamsa / Flickr

A Texas federal judge on Tuesday overturned endangered species protections for the lesser prairie chicken.

U.S. District Judge Robert A. Junell ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t properly consider a voluntary conservation plan established for Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico before listing the bird as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

USDAgov / Flickr Creative Commons

A U.S. district judge has ruled that a lawsuit over the status of a threatened chicken species will stay in Tulsa.

Oklahoma's attorney general, along with the attorneys general of North Dakota and Kansas, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They claim the federal agency improperly reclassified the lesser prairie chicken. In doing so, the state lawyers say it increased the environmental burden on oil and gas producers, agricultural operations and the states.

USDAgov / Flickr Creative Commons

The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts is partnering with a private oil and gas pipeline company to help protect the habitat of the Lesser Prairie Chicken.

The association announced on Tuesday its plans to work with OklahomaCity-based Access Midstream Partners.

The plan calls for Access Midstream to donate funds that will be used to provide incentives to landowners to preserve the bird's habitat in western Oklahoma.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Betsy Searight and her husband John drove from all the way from New Jersey for this opportunity: Wake up at 4 a.m., huddle against the cold, and sit silently and motionless for hours hoping to watch a Lesser Prairie Chicken peep show.

After a long fight between Oklahoma and the U.S. government, the Lesser Prairie Chicken goes on the federal threatened species list later this month.

To find out how the listing will affect Oklahoma and why the bird is worth protecting, we took a trip to the High Plains of northwestern Oklahoma.

It's prairie chicken mating season!

Still, it's tough being a lesser prairie chicken these days. This type of grouse once spanned an enormous area, though now they survive mainly in pockets of Oklahoma and Kansas. Their numbers are plummeting; in 2012, the population dropped by half.

But after they were recently listed as a threatened species by the U.S. government, complaints of federal overreach and lawsuits have followed.

Inhofe, Lucas, Fallin Not Pleased With Prairie Chicken Move

Mar 28, 2014
USDAgov / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma politicians have been quick to respond to news that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to list the lesser prairie chicken as threatened.

The Obama administration announced Thursday it is placing the lesser prairie chicken on a list of threatened species. The move could affect oil and gas drilling, wind farms and other activities in Oklahoma and four other central and southwestern states.

USDAgov / Flickr Creative Commons

The declining population of lesser prairie chickens has been an issue for years. It was during the 1990s — and another drought — that the species was first proposed for federal protection.

USDAgov / Flickr Creative Commons

 The Oklahoma Farm Bureau is hosting a meeting for landowners and others concerned about the status of the lesser prairie chicken.

The meeting next week in Woodward is to look at how Oklahoma would respond to the federal government's plan to list the bird as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The purpose of the meeting is to develop a conservation strategy for the bird's habitat in Oklahoma.