By Timothy Cama - 03/27/14 04:03 PM EDT
The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) declared Thursday that the lesser prairie chicken is a threatened species, one step below being endangered.
Under the Endangered Species Act, a threatened animal is “likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future,” the FWS said in a statement.
The FWS is trying to mitigate the effect the designation will have on the five western states where the lesser prairie chicken lives, the agency said. Individuals and businesses there will be exempt from limitations on oil and gas development, utility maintenance and other activities that can be restricted by threatened species.
“The lesser prairie chicken is in dire straits,” FWS Director Dan Ashe said in the statement. “Our determination that it warrants listing as a threatened species with a special rule acknowledges the unprecedented partnership efforts and leadership of the five range states for management of the species.”