Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 17, 2022


Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017,

Lesser Prairie Chicken Protected Under Endangered Species Act

Two Bird Populations Protected as Endangered, Threatened

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— In a victory for lesser prairie chickens, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it would protect the iconic grassland bird under the Endangered Species Act.

Two populations of the lesser prairie chicken will be protected by today’s decision. A Texas and New Mexico population is being listed as endangered. A separate northern population in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado is being listed as threatened. The listings will go into effect 60 days after next week’s publication in the Federal Register.

The Center for Biological Diversity sued last month to push the Service to issue a final rule protecting the species. The rule was more than five months overdue. The agency was supposed to issue the rule by June 1, 2022.

“This is terrific news for these fascinating birds and the overlooked and much-exploited prairies where they live,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We wish that the Fish and Wildlife Service hadn’t delayed this protection for 27 years, because quicker action would have meant a lot more lesser prairie chickens alive in a lot more places today. We’ll watch the next steps closely to ensure there are also strong protections for the wild places where these birds live.”

The lesser prairie chicken’s decline to a fraction of its original numbers is the result of the degradation and fragmentation of the southern Great Plains. Conversion to crops, cattle grazing, the raising of powerlines and telephone poles, oil and gas drilling, and the incursion of woodlands — as well as drought and high temperatures linked to global warming — all harm the bird.


The Center’s predecessor organization, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation, petitioned to list the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species in 1995.

In 2014 the Service finally listed the lesser prairie chicken as threatened. But the following year, the oil and gas industry successfully challenged the listing in Midland, Texas, based on a poorly implemented and largely ineffective conservation agreement.

In 2016 the Center and its allies petitioned for an endangered listing for lesser prairie chickens. The subsequent lawsuit by the Center and allies, and comments submitted in April 2021, led to last year’s proposed rule, which faced opposition from the oil and gas industry.

Lesser prairie chicken. Credit: USFWS. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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