May 2, 2008

News Release, US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico State Office, 1474 Rodeo Road, Santa Fe, NM 87505, Hans Stuart, External Affairs Chief, 505.438.7510

 

Contact:
Hans Stuart  505.438.7510
Howard Parman  575.627.0212

Special Status Species Proposed RMPA/FEIS Website

Photo of Lesser Prairie-Chicken

Photo of Sand Dune Lizard

Proposal to Protect Two Rare Species on Public Lands in Southeastern New Mexico Approved on May 2, 2008

The Bureau of Land Management has approved a plan to protect two rare species of wildlife in southeastern New Mexico, the lesser prairie-chicken and sand dune lizard, and enhance their habitat on public lands.  The BLM adopted major elements of a conservation strategy for the two species developed by a stakeholder group during the planning process, and added measures to increase habitat protection for the species. 

The BLM also established a Lesser Prairie-Chicken Habitat Preservation Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) to protect and enhance 58,000 acres of habitat for the species.  This measure modifies and adds to a proposal submitted by environmental interests. 

The BLM issued a formal ‘Record of Decision’ (ROD) on May 2, 2008, to amend Resource Management Plans in its Roswell and Carlsbad Field Offices.  The decision allows oil and gas development and other uses to continue on public lands with modifications and restrictions to protect habitat for the two species.

A Notice of Availability of the ROD was published in the Federal Register on May 2 as well.  Copies of the ROD and the amended Resource Management Plans (RMPs) are available on the internet at www.blm.gov/nm or from the BLM’s Pecos District Office at 2902 W. Second St. in Roswell.  Further information about this effort is available from Howard Parman, the BLM’s planning team leader, at the Pecos District Office (575.627.0212) or via email at howard_parman@blm.com.

“This effort was much more than completing a document.  It involved working together with a variety of interests to develop a vision: a plan that will conserve an important part of our natural heritage while preserving the traditions and cultures of southeastern New Mexico,” said Linda Rundell, New Mexico State Director for the BLM. 

“Twenty-five years ago, I was a biologist surveying prairie-chickens and sand dune lizards in our Roswell Field Office,” Rundell added.  “I’m thrilled to see that we now have a plan in place that will ensure their long-term protection.”

The BLM is also working with partners under the “Restore New Mexico” initiative to restore the species’ sand dune/shinnery oak habitat and reclaim abandoned oil fields (e.g., well pads and roads) in the area covered by the plan amendment – almost 850,000 acres of public lands plus an additional 298,000 acres of federal mineral estate in Roosevelt, Chaves, Eddy and Lea Counties. 

The Lesser Prairie-Chicken Habitat Preservation ACEC comprises 37,000 acres of public lands, 11,000 acres of State land and 10,000 acres of private land.  The BLM will consider acquiring non-federal lands within the ACEC if and when the opportunity arises from willing sellers of private lands.  Acquisitions of State lands within the ACEC boundary is underway through a land exchange being processed by BLM and the New Mexico State Land Office.

The BLM’s decision to select the preferred alternative from the proposed RMP amendments, establishes four management areas for the two species:  a core area, primary population area, sparse and scattered population area, and an isolated population area.

Federal oil and gas leasing will be closed within the core area, plus occupied and suitable habitat within the primary population area.  New oil and gas leasing will also be closed on occupied habitat within the sparse and scattered and isolated population areas.

Lands in the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Habitat Preservation ACEC will be closed to future oil and gas leasing. The ACEC is also closed to locatable, leasable and salable mineral entry.  Existing oil and gas leases will be developed with the same prescriptions and restrictions that will apply to the core area and sand dune lizard habitat.
 
The prairie-chicken’s habitat covers portions of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Habitat for the sand dune lizard is found only in southeastern New Mexico and a small portion of west Texas.

-BLM-