Lesser Prairie Chicken initiative targets local resource concerns

STILLWATER — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Oklahoma announced that $893,000 is available to help farmers and ranchers implement conservation practices, as part of the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative (LPCI). The LPCI is a multistate effort to protect and enhance critical habitat for the Lesser Prairie Chicken.The LPCI provides technical and financial assistance for the implementation of the core practices of wildlife management and prescribed grazing, which have been identified as key to habitat enhancement.  Financial assistance is also available for a variety of supporting practices which will further enhance habitat within the range of the Lesser Prairie Chicken.  Applications for the LPCI are accepted on a continuous basis, but only those applications received by March 2, 2012 will be considered for funding in 2012.  The LPCI action area includes portions of Beaver, Beckham, Cimarron, Custer, Ellis, Dewey, Harper, Roger Mills, Texas, Woods, and Woodward Counties.The LPCI is one of 15 Landscape Conservation Initiatives that address resource concerns of national importance by helping America’s landowners implement voluntary conservation practices to protect water quality, improve wildlife habitat and enhance the long-term sustainability of producers’ operations.“Through landscape initiative partnerships we’re maximizing conservation efforts to address some of our most pressing natural resource challenges,” NRCS Chief Dave White said. “The result is far-reaching and long-lasting environmental benefits for the Nation.”In coordination with local, state and federal agencies and organizations, NRCS’ Landscape Conservation Initiatives use a systems approach that focuses technical and financial assistance to implement a suite of conservation practices to address specific resource concerns. Through the LPCI, farmers and ranchers are incorporating conservation practices, which will enhance critical habitat for this candidate species, into their agricultural operations.NRCS has worked with USFWS to develop a conference report which contains an analysis of NRCS practices likely to have an impact on LPC habitat.  Clients who voluntarily implement these practices (which are available for funding through EQIP) according to the conference report and an approved NRCS plan, will have certainty that their actions are compliant with the Endangered Species Act during the time period while the species is listed as a candidate species.Conservation assistance is available to producers through several 2008 Farm Bill conservation programs, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program or the Conservation Stewardship Program.Producers interested in becoming a part of the LPCI or any other NRCS programs and services, should contact the local USDA Service Center at 601 SE 5th St in Guymon, OK.  Producers may also visit http://www.ok.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip/STATEWIDE/LPCI.html for more information.