Nearly Endangered Chicken Could Alter Wind Farm Development

One native bird in the area may soon be added to the endangered species list. And it could have a big impact on future wind farm development in the Panhandle.

There are only a few lesser prairie chickens left in Texas.

And because of huge wind farms proposed in the Panhandle, their population is in limbo.

Today at the Panhandle Wind and Wildlife Conference here in Amarillo, wildlife experts discussed the impact wind turbines and wind farms have on animals, both in the air and on the ground.

And they are anticipating problems to arise here in the Panhandle.

"I think a key issue is prairie chickens and habitat loss and disturbance and their may be certainly issues for water foul and birds in the playa lakes region," said Dr. Ed Arnett a conservation scientist with the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative..

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the lesser prairie chicken is a candidate for listing on the endangered species list and they feel that wind farm construction will disrupt their habitat.

"Prairie chickens are sensitive to fragmentation. They kind of need wide open spaces and any time you introduce infrastructures they leave an area and their breeding success declines quite a bit," said John P. Hughes, a fish and wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

Current habitats for the chicken range through Lipscomb, Hemphill, Wheeler, Gray, and Donley counties.

If the chicken is put on the endangered species list, it will affect future construction.

"It could effect the way people us their land. And could prevent wind farms from being sited," said hughes.

The heart of the lesser prairie chicken's habitat is right in the middle of the proposed T. Boone Pickens/Mesa Power wind farm.

John Hughes says they'll work with the company to keep the chicken safe.