Lesser Prairie Chicken plan touted

From the Portales News-Tribune - By Christina Calloway - Several landowners said they left Thursday’s informational meeting about the Range-wide Conservation Plan for the lesser prairie chicken with more questions than answers. 
     The deadline is approaching for listing the rare grouse, native to New Mexico and four other states, as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. In conjunction with the deadline, meetings have been held around the state to inform landowners about insurance programs for farmers if the bird were to be listed.
     A listing decision will come from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal group which regulates the ESA. Opponents of a “threatened” listing say regulations from the listing could hinder operations for landowners as well as the oil and gas industry.
     The way the program would work, according to New Mexico Game and Fish Biologist Grant Beauprez, is that the energy industry would provide funding for the program, which would in turn be paid out to the farmers and also cover administration costs for the program.
     The voluntary program would pay farmers in the shinnery oak region of the lesser prairie chicken, which encompasses eastern New Mexico and west Texas, based on the quality of the land. The higher quality of habitat for the bird, the higher the payment a farmer would receive. More