To Ranchers, Rare Birds Mean More Government

LUBBOCK — An odd-looking grouse with an intricate mating dance is at the center of an intense battle over wildlife conservation among energy companies, Texas officials and environmental advocates and the federal government.

But as is frequently the case in debates about threatened species, the private landowner has the most at stake — and often seems absent from the negotiating table.

That is especially true for Texas and the lesser prairie chicken, whose U.S. population has decreased to 17,000 from 34,000 in the past year. The bird is believed to roam on 3 million acres of mostly private property ...

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