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Potter County Master Gardeners is composed of volunteers dedicated to the furtherance of horticultural education through the Potter County Extension Program and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. Horticultural education programs include, but are not limited to, demonstration gardens, horticultural workshops, and garden tours.
Deadline for application is January 7, 2011
Contact for more information and application:
Brandon W. Boughen, Texas AgriLife Extension Service
3301 E. 10th AVE
Amarillo, TX 79104
Phone: 806-373-0713

Article from Jim Steiert

Endangered Species status could hurt lesser prairie chicken

Endangered Species status could hurt lesser prairie chicken

An Endangered Species designation for the lesser prairie chicken (LPC) would not only be devastating for certain economic development interests in the Texas Panhandle, but would be bad for recovery efforts on behalf of the grassland grouse as well.

That’s the contention of some conservationists and even landowners and managers who work with the species on a daily basis.

The Lesser Prairie Chicken Advisory Committee of the Texas Interagency Task Force on Economic Growth and Endangered Species has tackled the issue of how to prevent the LPC from listing as an Endangered Species and what to do to minimize harmful effects on the economic sector should listing occur.

In a report released by State Comptroller Susan Combs' office entitled "Balancing Economy with Ecology" that was produced by an advisory committee empaneled by Combs, construction of proposed power lines to carry electricity generated by wind energy, and placement of wind turbines were cited as potential contributing threats to the LPC that could ultimately lead to Endangered Species designation for the bird.

An organization based New Mexico that designates itself as "Wild Earth Guardians" is hell-bent on getting the LPC on the Endangered Species List and has sued the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to force the issue.

Should such designation occur, the impact could be substantial for both developers and the private landowners who continue to provide a substantial portion of the remaining habitat for the LPC. Industries and individuals could be cited for "illegal taking" of the prairie chicken should birds perish due to activities of wind farms or day to day operation of ranches.

"A listing of the lesser prairie chicken would not be good for any of the economic development interests--or for the chicken," contends Patricia "Tish" McDaniel of Clovis, Southern Shortgrass Prairie coordinator with The Nature Conservancy.

Mrs. McDaniel works with the LPC on virtually a daily basis in the shinnery and sand country near Milnesand, New Mexico, habitat that is also in close proximity as the crow flies to prairie chicken country across the state line in Cochran and Yoakum counties in Texas.

"Listing for the LPC means that we've failed in our efforts to stabilize the population of these birds. Listing won't bring back the population, and it limits the management options for folks who work every day with wildlife. It's a no-win situation," she emphasizes.

"If listing would help I'd be a champion for it, but all it really does is just compound the problem. I'd love to see some of these organizations that press for a listing for species come to the restoration meetings and put their money into habitat work that could really make a difference for the birds," she added.

Willard Heck, manager of the Weaver Ranch near Milnesand, agrees that a listing would simply shackle recovery efforts on behalf of the prairie chicken.

"All that a listing would do is throw all control right to the feds. There would be no local decision making on how best to manage the LPC, and what would motivate us to manage land well for the chicken then? An Endangered Species designation would leave land managers with no leeway, and land owners and managers could even be cited for illegal take of the LPC in the course of working on private land. Everybody from the rancher up needs to show they're acting with the welfare of the LPC in mind. The more that we can do together to show a concern and to work toward recovery, the better--none of that can happen if there's a listing," Heck said.

James Bradley, a member of the board of the Pampa Economic Development Corporation and a member of the LPC Advisory Committee, has prairie chickens on his property and understands the complicated nature of the issue.

"We need to have a proactive approach that rewards landowners for their management of the LPC. Landowners should not be penalized, as they would be with an Endangered Species designation, but provided incentives for protecting or enhancing LPC habitat on their property.

"As landowners, we have a vested interest in what happens to the land now--and for generations to come. We want to be good stewards, but we want to have the same opportunities as our neighbors who don’t have prairie chickens on their land. That's why incentives are so important to landowners. It allows us to be looked at with equality," said Bradley.

Chief among findings of the Lesser Prairie Chicken Advisory Council is that it's vital that all sectors of the economy in the Texas Panhandle should be involved in prairie chicken conservation efforts.

That will be a tall order if the prairie chicken is listed as an Endangered Species.

Jim Steiert is an award winning member of the Texas Outdoor Writers Association and a Certified Texas Master Naturalist.