Five oil and gas companies have pledged to give 1.5 million acres of land in five states toward conservation of lesser prairie chicken habitat.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says in a statement Friday this represents the first enrollment in a broad state initiative that aims to engage ranchers, landowners and the oil and gas industry in a sweeping conservation effort designed to prevent the chicken from being federally protected as a threatened species.
The lesser prairie chicken's habitat encompasses the plains of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma. Its population has dwindled in recent years and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to announce in March whether the chicken will be listed as threatened.
Oil and gas drilling has also boomed in these areas.
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