Nature Conservancy turning Panhandle ranch into chicken preserve

Staff Report
The Associated Press

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) - The Nature Conservancy has purchased a 6,000-acre ranch in the South Plains to help protect the state's struggling population of lesser prairie chickens.

The ranch about 40 miles southwest of Lubbock had been in the Fitzgerald family for more than 100 years.

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department biologists have counted more than 300 lesser prairie chickens on the property.

The bird has been a candidate for the federal Endangered Species List since 1998.

The chickens are found in 16 counties in the northeastern and southwestern corners of the Texas Panhandle.

Wildlife biologists say the chickens need large parcels of native grasslands to survive.