Rio Grande Gorge, New Mexico
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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
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Lesser Prairie-Chicken Expansion Corridor


BLM has completed its analyses for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Expansion Corridor Environmental Assessment (EA). This EA is available for public comment through February 7, 2011. Comments can be sent to nmrfo_comments@blm.gov

The EA analyzes the impacts of four alternatives and a no action alternative. The proposed action or Alternative A would require the burial of all utility lines within the corridor. Alternative B would use muffled engines to power equipment at the well. Alternative C would establish overhead utility line corridors. Alternative D would require all pipelines and overhead utility lines serving a well to be located on either side of the road accessing the well.

A detailed description of the alternatives and impact analysis can be found in the EA which can be downloaded in the box to the right. If you have difficulty downloading the document or maps, please use the contact information.

Questions and Answers About the LPC Corridor

What is the purpose of this corridor?
The purpose of the proposed corridor is to maintain a north-south travel way for lesser prairie-chickens.

Isn’t the corridor chicken habitat?
While portions of the proposed corridor meet the definition of suitable chicken habitat, currently, there is no occupied chicken habitat in the corridor.  Occupied chicken habitat is defined as an area within 1.5 miles of an active lek (mating ground) that has been active for one out of the last five years.
 
The area has not been occupied lesser prairie-chicken habitat for quite a number of years.  Why all the concern about oil and gas development in the area now?
The purpose of the proposed corridor is to maintain an area for future expansion as well as a north-south travel way for lesser prairie-chickens.  Monitoring indicates chickens use the corridor in the winter months.  By maintaining the corridor with relatively few impediments to seasonal use by chickens, BLM believes genetic diversity of the species can be more easily maintained.  This might be an important factor should the chicken be listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
 
The area is crossed by electrical distribution and transmission lines already.  Why bury distribution lines?
Chickens tend to avoid overhead structures.  Research indicates chickens avoid overhead electric power lines by about 0.2 miles.  This leads to habitat fragmentation.  At some point, increased fragmentation leads to near total avoidance.  By reducing the amount of fragmentation or holding fragmentation at a known level, chickens will continue to use an area.
 
Why not bury all electric lines, regardless of size?
Burying transmission lines are not feasible due to voltage, cost and safety considerations.  Burying distribution lines (33Kv and less) is safe and feasible although more expensive than overhead lines.  Buried electric distribution lines are common throughout the country.
 
Wouldn’t anti-perch devices on power poles discourage raptors?
Anti-perch devices would discourage predators.  Chickens, however, would not know these devices are in place.  Research indicates chickens avoid all tall structures as a survival instinct.
 
Wouldn’t the requirement to bury distribution lines discourage further oil and gas leasing within the proposed corridor?
Approximately 74% of the federal minerals within the area are already under lease.  The remaining federal minerals are generally available for lease under the prescriptions of the 2008 Special Status Species Resource Management Plan Amendment (SSS RMPA).
 
Why not simply ban further oil and gas development?
Lease holders have valid rights and expectations to develop their leases.  Plus, domestic energy production is vital to health of the country. 
 
What about protesting or appealing this proposal?
The time to protest is when the finding of no significant impact (FONSI) is signed and issued with a proposed decision.  The proposed decision will include the process for making a protest.  The time to appeal is when a BLM manager signs the decision record, making the decision final.  The decision record will include the information about the process for filing an appeal with BLM and the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA).

How can I receive notification of comment periods, protest periods and appeal periods?
Make sure you get on BLM’s notification list and you can do that by sending an e-mail to nmrfo_comments@blm.gov.  Include your name, mailing address and/or your e-mail address.  BLM will then notify you at each stage of the process.


Documents

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Expansion Corridor Environmental Assessment ( doc I pdf )

Appendix 1 – Decisions from the 2008 Special Status Species Resource Management Plan Amendment ( doc I pdf )

Maps & Figures

Figure 1 – Alternative D

Map 3 – Vegetation Treatment and Reclamation Projects 

Map 7 – Alternative C Habitat Fragmentation 

Contact Information
Monica Ketcham
BLM Roswell Field Office
2909 W. Second Street
Roswell, NM  88201-2019
(575)627-0310
monica_ketcham@blm.gov