Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Research, 18:2 (Fall 2008) 205-18. Copyright © 2008 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Populations of lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) have declined by more than 90%, due primarily to the conversion of sand-sage and mixed-grass prairie to agriculture, overgrazing by domestic livestock, juniper encroachment, and fossil-fuel development. Degradation of native habitats has made restored cropland through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) potentially one ofthe best management options for lesser prairie-chicken. An estimated 1.4 million hectares of CRP exist within the lesser prairie-chicken range. We assessed 1,019 CRP fields representing more than 51,000 hectares within the current distribution of the lesser prairie-chicken. We sampled various grassland plantings including Farm Service Agency conservation practices 1, 2, 4, 4D, 10, and 25. In the context oflesser prairie-chicken habitat requirements for nesting and brood-rearing, our data suggest the following conservation practices (CP) have the highest potential for lesser prairie-chicken management: in Colorado and New Mexico, CPIO and CP2; in Oklahoma, CP2, followed by CPs 25 and 10; in northeast Texas, CP2, and in northwest Texas CPs 1, 10, and 2. Kansas CRP fields consistently displayed a high forb component and tall average grass height, habitat attributes that are consistent with the incidence of range expansion and population stability of the lesser prairie-chicken within that state. These field assessments are the first step in a process to target fields for CRP re-enrollment and to guide management to benefit lesser prairie-chicken.