AUSTIN, Texas, Nov. 30, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- RiverBank Conservation, LLC has secured formal approval of the first and only permanent mitigation property in West Texas under the requirements of the USFWS Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC) Conservation Guidance. Tomahawk Conservation Bank (Tomahawk) is a partnership with two private ranching families in Yoakum County, Texas that totals 2,740 acres. The bank is located immediately adjacent to the Yoakum Dunes Wildlife Management Area, formerly owned by The Nature Conservancy of Texas and now owned by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. LPC mitigation credits would serve industry impacts in portions of the southern Great Plains covering West Texas, eastern New Mexico and southern portions of the Texas Panhandle.
Tomahawk was approved in only six months by partnering with LPC Conservation ("LPCC"), LLC of Edmond, Oklahoma under an existing range wide umbrella conservation banking agreement that was approved by the USFWS in May 2014. Similar conservation banks were previously approved for two separate banks in Kansas in March 2015 totaling 29,000 acres. All three conservation banks, totaling 32,000 acres, are available to provide conservation and offsets in three out of four USFWS-defined LPC range ecosystems (referred to as "service areas"). No other permanent mitigation properties have been formerly submitted for approval to the USFWS. In addition to the three approved properties, LPCC has more than 90,000 acres under option with private ranchers across three states to develop LPC conservation banks.
Dr. Adam Riggssbee, Principal of RiverBank Conservation, LLC said, "Today is a bellwether day for high standard, permanent conservation for the Lesser Prairie Chicken in the State of Texas. I'm grateful to Tomahawk's private landowners, who will continue sustainably ranching their properties through our partnership with Texas Agricultural Land Trust who will hold the conservation easement on the property. We're also grateful for LPC Conservation's support in achieving this milestone; we couldn't have done this without them and their umbrella banking agreement that streamlined our approval process. Together we have worked hard in establishing Tomahawk in order to protect the best Lesser Prairie Chicken habitat in West Texas, the most threatened part of the bird's range.
"With appropriate support from the USFWS, we believe the LPC species credit market can develop in such a way that our credits, and others like them, will become the preferred source of offsets for industry activities across the range. Of course such a market requires equivalent standards across the species' multiple mitigation programs, including WAFWA's Range-Wide Plan and all pending Habitat Conservation Plans under FWS review. Conservation markets are only as effective as the consistency and quality of their regulation, and high quality conservation requires high regulatory standards. We look forward to continuing our work with USFWS to make sure all mitigation programs appropriately incentivize equivalent conservation outcomes on private lands."
Wayne Walker, CEO of LPC Conservation, stated, "We are grateful to the agency professionals in Region 2 of the USFWS who worked tirelessly to finalize Tomahawk's approval. Partnerships like the one we have formed with RiverBank are exactly what we envisioned when we developed our range-wide umbrella conservation bank strategy with the USFWS in 2012. This umbrella agreement not only allows the private-sector to establish LPC conservation banks, it also allows the states and industry to partner with us and private ranchers to quickly meet the USFWS's highest mitigation standards. While this is a great day for LPC conservation as well as for RiverBank and its landowner partners, the reality is that until the USFWS/DOI establishes a level playing field for the LPC market, as called for in the recent Presidential Memorandum, directive from the Secretary of the Interior, and required under the Range-Wide Plan, the potential permanent conservation benefits of LPCC's 90,000 acres and RiverBank's properties will be severely limited.
SOURCE RiverBank Conservation, LLC