Wildlife managers in several states will begin surveys later this month to track the population of a grouse that has been the focus of an ongoing legal battle over whether it warrants federal protection.
Officials say aerial surveys for the lesser-prairie chicken in New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas will start March 16 and run through mid-May.
The lesser-prairie chicken was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2014. That decision was vacated two years later as a result of a lawsuit and a subsequent court ruling. Environmentalists then petitioned to have the bird's status reviewed.
As part of a range-wide voluntary conservation plan, economic incentives are offered to landowners and companies that set aside land to reduce impacts to the bird and its grassland habitat.