The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has endorsed a voluntary conservation plan to help protect the lesser prairie-chicken in Texas and four other range states.
The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' plan calls for financial incentives to landowners who manage their properties to benefit the species.
The plan’s effectiveness will be considered when the agency makes a final decision in March whether to list the species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Lubbock Congressman Randy Neugebauer said the plan should prevent the need for the listing. In a statement, Neugebauer called it "an innovative collaboration that allows states, landowners, farmers, ranchers, and energy producers to work together to preserve habitat."
FWS director Dan Ashe said when regulators first proposed in December 2012 to list the bird, there were fewer than 45,000. A survey this past year counted 18,000 across its range in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.