(AP) - The federal government is offering first-of-its-kind legal protections for landowners who help protect the lesser prairie chicken's dwindling populations across five states.
The move is designed to ease concerns of landowners and the energy industry that they would not be able to operate in the bird's habitat if the prairie grouse is listed as a threatened species.
The deal is simple: Those who take steps to preserve habitat will receive a letter guaranteeing they will not be fined or prosecuted if lesser prairie chickens are found dead on their property.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to announce by March 30 whether to list the bird as a threatened species. The decision would impact the plains of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma.