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Lesser Prairie Chicken Loses Federal Protection

Andrew Lawrence/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Lesser prairie chicken.

The U.S. government is stripping federal protection from the lesser prairie chicken, whose habitat includes New Mexico. The bird has been a point of controversy in the West for years.
Facing an uphill legal fight, the feds are taking the bird off a protection list under the Endangered Species Act. This comes after recent court rulings in Texas denied the bird federal protection. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said this does not mean authorities had concluded the lesser prairie chicken did not warrant federal protection for biological reasons.

Oil and gas groups had strongly opposed the bird’s threatened listing, saying it could hurt operations in the Southwest.

The lesser prairie chicken lives mostly in Kansas, and also in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado. About 95 percent of the bird's range is on private lands.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Stina Sieg was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2013 to 2018.