Weaver Ranch Restores Habitat

Jim Weaver

The sprawling Weaver Ranch near Causey, New Mexico, is located in important Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitat. Ranch manager Willard Heck talks about removing 400-500 acres of mesquite that had encroached onto prairie land, fragmenting the bird’s habitat. A three-year drought has impeded the bird from thriving, but Heck thinks the chicken’s population is increasing on the ranch.

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New Mexico Reclamation Project

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has partnered with hundreds of groups to restore and link back together the Lesser Prairie-Chicken’s eastern New Mexico habitat. With funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, crews are removing petroleum welljack pads and service roads, reseeding with native grasses, and removing other vertical objects like mesquite, trees and old windmills in effort to restore a habitat more friendly to the needs of the bird.

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Lesser Prairie-Chicken’s Aversion to Vertical Structures

Scientists researching the population declines of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken say the bird’s habitat has been damaged by vertical structures and human activity like road-building and oil and gas mining. Vertical structures include mesquite and other woody invasives, which the bird is averse to nesting near. Those features lead to habitat fragmentation. The bird is reluctant to cross roads and transmission lines. It tries to stay away from mesquite and trees. As a result, it self-limits habitat. Scientists and land managers discuss what’s been learned.

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