(SANTA FE, New Mexico) – In an effort to protect Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitat in southeastern New Mexico – while ensuring oil and gas extraction and agricultural production can continue – New Mexico State Land Commissioner Ray Powell is urging State Land Office lessees to sign a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA).
Commissioner Powell signed a conservation agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Center of Excellence for Hazardous Material Management (CEHMM) in March of 2012. The agreement represents the largest such accord in the nation – for more than 247,000 acres of trust land statewide.
“This agreement was the result of the collaborative efforts of the oil and gas industry, the agricultural community, environmental groups, the State Land Office and our federal partners,” said Commissioner Powell. “I encourage all leaseholders and operators in the area to enroll in this voluntary program to protect this important species before the listing decision is made this March.”
“It is very important for our lessees to know that if they do not sign their own CCAAs with CEHMM, before a listing decision for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken is made, that their business operations may be significantly impacted if the species is listed under the Endangered Species Act,” said Powell. “If the Lesser Prairie-Chicken is listed, lessees that have enrolled in the CCAA will not be faced with delays that non-enrolled lessees are likely to face due to the USFWS consultation process.”
The USFWS is expected to make a decision about whether or not to list the Lesser Prairie-Chicken as a threatened or endangered species by March 31, 2014. Should the Lesser Prairie-Chicken be listed, oil and gas development and agricultural operations in the habitat area could be delayed by the required USFWS consultation process unless the operators participate in CCAA program.
The CCAA agreement is available at the State Land Office website www.nmstatelands.org. Also available are a habitat map and other information concerning the agreement that may be of interest. Additional information may be found at CEHMM’s website at: www.cehmm.org.
Operators and ranchers that agree to conduct certain conservation measures are provided regulatory assurances concerning USFWS land use restrictions that might otherwise apply should the Lesser Prairie-Chicken become listed as a threatened or endangered species. Conservation measures in the agreement include activities such as minimizing surface disturbances and avoiding habitat.
For more information, contact the State Land Office:
Assistant Commissioner – Mineral Resources Division
New Mexico State Land Office
PO Box 1148
Santa Fe, NM 87504
505-827-4489 – phone
The New Mexico State Land Commissioner is an elected state official responsible for administering the state’s land grant trust. Thirteen million acres of land were granted to New Mexico in 1898 and 1910. Each tract is held in trust for the public schools, universities, and hospitals. During the past three years, state trust lands produced more than $1.7 billion in income for the beneficiaries, which saves the average household about $850 a year in taxes.