ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.. -- Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett launched an innovative conservation program today that encourages landowners, energy companies and ranchers to join the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management in protecting and restoring habitat for two species in southeast New Mexico—the lesser prairie chicken and the sand dune lizard.
“Starting today, landowners and industry can volunteer to work with us to protect the lesser prairie-chicken and sand dune lizard,” Scarlett said. “We give them assurances that their operations will continue.”
Under the new program, the agencies and the Center of Excellence for Hazardous Materials Management will administer voluntary “Candidate Conservation Agreements” (CCAs) for oil and gas lease holders on federal lands and “Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances” (CCAAs) for state and private landowners to benefit the species. These are the first -ever conservation agreements created specifically for lease holders on federal lands.
The voluntary agreements allow participants to undertake or fund conservation measures aimed at reducing and/or eliminating threats to the species, which are candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Candidate Conservation Agreement[s] were signed at the Rio Grande Nature Center in Albuquerque by Devon Energy Company of Oklahoma City, Okla., and Marbob Energy Company of Artesia, N.M. In addition, rancher Chris Brinistool signed a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances covering the operation of her ranch.
Participants signing agreements agree to conduct or fund activities that will benefit the species, such as removing objects that serve as perches for predators, consolidating or eliminating roads or other features that break up habitat, and providing fence line markers to reduce collisions during pre-dawn flight. In return for these measures, if either species becomes threatened or endangered despite their efforts, participants will not be required to make significant changes in their activities.
The agreements build on the BLM’s Special Status Species Resource Management Plan Amendment (RMPA), completed in April 2008, to protect the species and restore their habitat. The plan established requirements that are applied to all future federal activities, regardless of whether a grazing permittee or oil and gas lessee participates in the CCA program. The strength of the CCA comes from implementation of additional conservation measures that are above and beyond the baseline requirements established in the RMPA.
“These agreements are historic because landowners and industry can proactively participate in conserving rare species,” said Linda Rundell, New Mexico State Director for the BLM. “We have a new tool in the conservation toolbox and I commend Marbob, Devon, and Ms. Brinistoll for their forward-looking approach to conservation.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service was petitioned in 1995 to place the lesser
prairie-chicken on the federal list of threatened and endangered species
and received a similar petition in 2002 for the sand dune lizard. The
Service considers both species as candidates for ESA protection and closely
monitors their status and promotes their conservation.
Copies of the CCA and CCAA are online at: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/NewMexico/