WAFWA reopens lesser prairie chicken conservation program enrollment

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) are encouraging oil and gas companies to enroll leases and pipelines in its voluntary lesser prairie chicken conservation program despite a federal court decision overturning the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s designation of the bird as a threatened species (OGJ Online, Sept. 3, 2015).

The Boise, Ida.-based WAFWA, which represents fish and wildlife services in 23 US states and Canadian provinces, said FWS has approved new enrollments by companies operating within the five lesser prairie chicken range states of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The companies are required to implement conservation benefits for the bird and pay enrollment and impact fees for unavoidable impacts, which allow them to continue producing and transporting oil and gas, while contributing to conserving lesser prairie chicken habitat, WAFWA said.

“Since this program began in 2014, more than 180 oil, gas, wind, electric, and pipeline companies have enrolled about 11 million acres across the five states, and have committed $47.5 million for habitat conservation,” WAFWA Industry Services Director Sean Kyle said.

WAFWA officials said they do not know how long this opportunity would last. They explained that FWS has asked a federal judge to reconsider the Sept. 1 decision, and depending on the outcome, the new enrollment period could end.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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