The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced available funding through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken (LPC) Initiative, which targets specific counties in the Panhandle and South Plains regions.

The LPC priority area includes the following counties:  Lipscomb, Ochiltree, Hemphill, Roberts, Wheeler, Gray, Donley, Collingsworth, Deaf Smith, Randall, Parmer, Castro, Swisher, Bailey, Lamb, Cochran, Hockley, Yoakum, Terry, Gaines, Dawson, Andrews, Martin, Dallam, Sherman, Hansford, Hartley, Moore, Hutchinson, Oldham, Potter, Carson, Armstrong, Hale, Lubbock and Lynn.

EQIP is a continuous sign-up program.  NRCS will be accepting applications through July 29, 2011 for current funding.  Producers interested in the LPC initiative should contact their local NRCS office for technical and financial assistance and learn how program options can benefit their needs. 

The LPC initiative is a local and regional working partnership through the NRCS EQIP program focused on assisting producers in conservation plan development to help maintain, establish, improve and manage habitat for the LPC.

“This program provides an opportunity for cropland and rangeland producers in the designated priority counties to implement practices for improved lesser prairie-chicken habitat and grazing conditions on rangeland,” said Manuel DeLeon, NRCS wildlife biologist in Lubbock. 

            “This current drought situation may have some farmers and ranchers thinking about critical areas that have been impacted by dry conditions, high-winds and wildfires.  For example, these funds may be used by producers to plant native grasses on critical cropland areas to minimize erosion and help improve LPC habitat.”

Additional conservation funding through the NRCS may also be used to address plant health needs for rangeland producers that have suffered losses from recent wildfires.  

DeLeon said NRCS’ efforts in planning habitat improvements for the LPC have proven successful since 2002. 

“Our goal for the LPC initiative is to encourage more landowners and producers to participate in an effort to improve additional habitat and develop a comprehensive wildlife management plan that can specifically address the LPC habitat,” DeLeon said.  “Conservation practices include brush management, native grass planting, fencing, water facilities, livestock pipeline, watering facilities, and prescribed grazing.”

For additional information about the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative and how to apply, please contact the local NRCS office in your county, or visit the Texas NRCS website at www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov/programs.