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Bennet pushes to protect fragile land, preserve habitat for lesser prairie chicken in southeastern Colorado

Colorado

In an effort to increase conservation options for Colorado landowners, Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, Dec. 10 announced his push to protect fragile land and preserve a habitat for the lesser prairie chicken.

In a letter, Bennet urged U.S. Department of Agriculture to create a Conservation Reserve Program initiative to give qualified landowners another way to maintain conservation practices at a time when millions of acres of CRP contracts are expiring with unclear prospects of reenrollment.

"This initiative would be a win-win for southeastern Coloradans. It would protect fragile land, preserve critical wildlife habitat, and reduce chances that the lesser prairie chicken gets placed on the endangered species list," said Bennet.

The CRP program enables farmers and ranchers to address soil, water, and related natural resource concerns on their lands in an environmentally beneficial and cost-effective manner. In southeastern Colorado the program enables participants to return their land to native grassland--critical habitat for the lesser prairie chicken and other grassland species.

Bennet, along with Senate colleagues Mark Udall, Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman, sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking him to create a High Plains CRP initiative in the lesser prairie chicken's natural range. The letter cites the important economic benefits the initiative and other modifications to existing CRP policies could provide farmers and ranchers during this period of economic turmoil.

The letter also highlights the potential benefits to the lesser prairie chicken, an emblematic High Plains species in danger of being listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Listing of the lesser prairie chicken under the ESA could have significant adverse repercussions on the High Plains economy, potentially limiting both conventional and renewable energy development, as well as farming and ranching in the bird's 5 state range (Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico). The Colorado counties affected by the proposal are Baca, Bent, Cheyenne, Kiowa and Prowers.



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