In August, 2013, Audubon New Mexico was notified that the U.S. IBA Committee had completed its review of the New Mexico Lesser Prairie-Chicken Complex and confirmed it as a Global IBA. This IBA in eastern New Mexico encompasses over 2 million acres, including a number of properties managed specifically for the LEPC by the Department of Game and Fish, Bureau of Land Management, and The Nature Conservancy, as well as private landowners who have voluntarily implemented conservation measures benefitting the LEPC on their properties. The shinnery oak prairie utilized by the LEPC also supports other declining grassland species such as the Burrowing Owl, Scaled Quail, and both Cassin’s and Grasshopper Sparrows. Having lost more than 97% of our native grasslands in the U.S., conserving the remaining habitat and the grassland birds it supports must be a high priority.
In addition, this new Global IBA is now officially one of the sites throughout the world that BirdLife International (the “parent” of the IBA program globally) has officially recognized as an “IBA in Danger,” making it one of only 7 in that critical category in the United States, along with such sites as the Northern Everglades and Salton Sea.
Energy development and conversion to agriculture present the greatest threats to LEPC populations range-wide, which have declined by 50% in the last year. While a sobering designation, we hope it will spur all partners to work together with a sense of urgency to protect this species.